JHU reaccreditation self-study report emphasizes pursuit of 'one university'

Recommendations include continued efforts in gateway sciences, data-driven decision making; site visit begins next week

Today, President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Robert C. Lieberman shared with the university community a comprehensive self-study report nearly three years in the making.

The university's final self-study report—a major component of the decennial reaccreditation process required by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education—describes how Johns Hopkins is marshaling its distributed strengths to advance a common mission of discovery, research, and service.

Its release marks a key moment in the reaccreditation process, which culminates next week in a campus site visit by a team of volunteers from other colleges and universities.

In their email to affiliates, Daniels and Lieberman described the self-study report as "a thorough evaluation that speaks to the lofty ambitions of Johns Hopkins, our progress over the past decade, and key areas that will need our attention in the years ahead."

The final report, which builds on self-studies conducted by each of the university's nine schools, addresses broad issues such as governance, planning and resources, faculty, educational programs, and student learning. It examines in particular innovative teaching and learning in the gateway sciences and the future of PhD education at Johns Hopkins.

Vice Provost Jonathan Bagger and Assistant Vice Provost Philip Tang led the 25-member steering committee that drove the self-study process and prepared the report with participation from every academic division of the university. The team reached out to the Johns Hopkins community on an individual level in November 2013 by asking for feedback on a draft of the report and by inviting affiliates to attend a series of town hall meetings to provide their reactions.

Tang said the comprehensive, universitywide approach to the self-study was unusual and challenging for Johns Hopkins given its decentralization.

"It was decidedly ambitious, but our goal was to produce a meaningful report that tells one cohesive and coherent story instead of nine stories stapled together," Tang said. "What we learned in the process is just how much we've already become 'one university,' and how we've been on that path for some time."

The report points to numerous examples of assessments that have led to improvements in institutional performance, including analyses of financial management, administrative processes, and student services. In particular, the report highlights the external reviews conducted of almost every Johns Hopkins school in the past five years—and the positive changes that have resulted—as proof that such assessments enhance institutional effectiveness.

The report cites the ongoing Gateway Sciences Initiative and the newly built Undergraduate Teaching Laboratories as ways the university is creating innovative environments for teaching and learning. It also recommends a continued focus on student learning assessments across the university.

"Self-studies can require a huge investment of time," said Bernard T. Ferrari, dean of the Carey Business School. "However, if done well, they also can provide significant returns on that investment. At Carey, the opportunity to discuss how we could improve our assessment of learning approaches will improve how we teach our students."

Katherine Newman, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, described the multiyear self-study process as intense but worthwhile.

"Like our sister schools, Krieger worked hard to synthesize the extraordinary work of our faculty and students in order to convey to the evaluators the many strengths of our particular approach to the liberal arts," Newman said. "We look forward to their review and know that this opportunity for thorough self-examination will be put to good use in future planning."

The campus site visit begins May 7 and continues through May 10. The team's evaluation will be guided by 14 accreditation standards, with the self-study report as its focal point. The group, led by Thomas Rosenbaum, provost of the University of Chicago and president-elect of the California Institute of Technology, will meet with more than 100 faculty members, staff, and students from across Johns Hopkins.