In  2013, the University completed a comprehensive and thorough self-study as part of the Higher Learning Commission’s (HLC’s) ten-year continuing accreditation process.

In late October of 2013, the HLC conducted a site visit to UND. For three days, a five-member team examined many aspects of the campus and its programs to validate the information in the self-study report UND had submitted.

At the conclusion of the visit, the site team members, though limited by HLC policy in terms of the specificity of the feedback they could provide, complimented the University on the thoroughness of the self-study, on the campus and community awareness of the importance of their visit and on the many strengths of UND.

Now, a few months later, that initial impression has been borne out.  UND has received the final report and the final decision of the Higher Learning Commission.  Its findings?  Full continued accreditation with a return visit scheduled for ten years from now, 2023-24. 

This significant accomplishment came about due to the efforts of many UND people.  President Kelley noted,  “More than 150 people across the University played important roles in this process, and many more were a part of discussions—both formal and informal—during the HLC’s campus visit that enabled the HLC to gain a true sense of the character and mission of the University of North Dakota.”  He added,  “There are three people whom I’d like to single out specifically.  They spent three years living the entire process and guiding it with skillful leadership: Joan Hawthorne, Patrick O’Neill, and Donna Pearson.”

Said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Thomas DiLorenzo, “The faculty were terrific in guiding this process.  I’m very proud of the results, and I look forward to the next steps.”

The HLC’s full report is now available at und.edu/hlc.  A number of comments in that report are especially complimentary of the University (Quoted comments come directly from the report):

  • Strong self-study process.  The report noted UND’s Accreditation Self Study Leadership Team, its work, and “its accreditation-planning model, action calendar, and numerous subcommittee reports and documents revealed a thorough, purposeful, and strategic institutional initiative that engaged the entire campus in the preparation and execution of its comprehensive self study.”
  • Progress since the 2003 visit.  “(The) University has demonstrated substantial advancement in addressing…challenges. For example, after reviewing selected program assessment plans and course syllabi from various school[s] and colleges, the Peer Review Team determined that UND has [made] significant progress in this area.”
  • Campus-wide and community-wide understanding of UND’s mission.  “Evidence gathered from conversations and discussion with academic administrators, faculty, and students indicated a high level of understanding of the UND mission…. Community constituents were vocal about their appreciation of how the University was mission oriented in its outreach to Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota.”
  • Encouragement of continued diversity efforts.  The end of the report noted:  “The team encourages the University to continue on the path of strengthening and encouraging its commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus as well as within the community. The formation of the Diversity Advisory Council is a good beginning and the planned hiring of an Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion…is a great first step.…These efforts should be a high priority for the future.”  As many of you know, last week UND filled this position, announcing that Sandra Mitchell will be the University’s first Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Undergraduate research opportunities.  The accreditation team noted that, “It is clear that faculty has engaged undergraduate students in their research.  Data collected by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) showed that almost half of the faculty involved undergraduate students in their research projects.”
  • Effective student-to-faculty ratio.  As UND’s student body has grown, the University has worked to add faculty, a fact recognized by the team.  “There has been [a] corresponding increase in faculty numbers at UND as the institution expanded its student body. New course and program proposals as well as existing program reviews are conducted by faculty with appropriate unit, campus and university system oversight. Faculty have been involved with assessment of student learning.”
  • Providing high value and affordability to students.  The HLC team recognized that UND has worked hard to provide a strong value and at the same time keep costs affordable for students:  “UND has worked to strike a balance that has helped keep tuition lower than many peer institutions. An examination of how tuition at UND compares to other peer institutions, particularly in the Midwest, clearly indicates that the institution has paid attention to controlling costs.”

In summary, noted the report, “It was clear to the Peer Review Team that the University leadership, faculty, and staff are dedicated to enhancing student learning and the quality of the campus experience. This perception is reflected in the support the University receives from the community. The strategic vision of creating an [E]xception[al] UND is focusing the entire institution on a mission driven future of service and student growth and development.”

More of the HLC’s comments can be found in the final report, available at UND.edu/hlc.  In addition, a link to the 306-page self-study and the executive summary can be found on the Provost’s web page.

UND can be proud of what has been accomplished over the past few years through the Exceptional UND initiative, including the HLC accreditation. These accomplishments will also serve UND well going forward. As President Kelley has said, “We have a great deal of work ahead of us to meet the challenges and opportunities that confront the university.  I am confident that we will succeed because our faculty, staff and students care about the university and are willing to work on the priorities that will get UND where it needs to go.”