Dr. Robin Myers, Chancellor of Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) announced notification of continued accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) at the institution’s convocation meeting on August 13, 2018. The decision follows a three-year process of internal review, submission of an assurance report to the HLC and a visit by members of the HLC visiting team to the ASUMH campus.
“I am so proud of our leadership team at ASUMH and the college staff and students for their outstanding commitment to this great institution that is evidenced by this report,” said Myers.
Officially established as Arkansas State University-Mountain Home in 1995 but still accredited as part of the university, ASUMH sought and received its initial, five-year independent accreditation from the HLC in 2003. The HLC’s comprehensive visit in 2008 resulted in the College’s continued accreditation for a period of 10 years and necessitated this 2017-2018 Reaffirmation Review. In the document accompanying its letter of notification of continued accreditation, the HLC visiting team made note of “the local community’s support and investment in ASUMH, and the level of trust, dedication, and collegiality among all constituents as well as undeniable support and appreciation for an administration that is extremely invested in shared governance and transparency.”
Key remarks pulled from the final report include the following:
1 – Mission: The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.
• “When a Team member asked faculty how many had worked at the college for 10 years or more, approximately 60% of those in attendance raised their hands. Several made comments about the joy and pride they feel in working for ASUMH and helping students achieve their educational or personal goals.”
• “One student told a Team member that prior to attending ASUMH, he hadn’t expected to succeed in college and never really thought he would complete a college degree, but the ‘family atmosphere,’ helpful faculty, and friendly classmates had changed his mind. This student who thought he wouldn’t succeed is on track to complete the Nursing program in May.”
• “Administrators shared with the Team their good fortune in benefiting from the generous retired population who come to campus to participate in the Golden Agers Program and/or enjoy a show or a concert. The Team was able to witness this first-hand as members beheld donated Rembrandts, Grecian busts, and Japanese and Chinese glassware. These gifts serve as tangible proof of ASUMH’s status as ‘treasured’ and of a sincere appreciation that flows in all directions.”
• “While on site, the Team could not help but recognize that ASUMH is a place where students want to learn, teachers want to teach, support staff want to support, and administrators want to lead. The sense of community and mutual trust and support witnessed by the Team while on site cannot be overemphasized.”
2 – Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
• “It was evident in Team discussions with three members of the Board of Visitors, that they take their role quite seriously and, similar to the Board of Trustees, expressed their appreciation of the leadership and vision that Chancellor Myers has brought to ASUMH, particularly in expanding the technical programs and in opening the ASUMH Secondary (Workforce Technical) Center.”
• “On the ASUMH campus, the Team encountered nothing but openness, inclusiveness, and collegiality. Student artwork was displayed side-by-side with faculty and professional artists’ work. Students reported that they could ’be themselves’ while at ASUMH, and faculty and staff spoke of the family-type environment in which they felt comfortable sharing ideas or being different without the fear of isolation or ridicule.”
• “All in all, the tone on the ASUMH campus was one of inclusivity and appreciation as well as celebration of differences, thus leading to the Team’s conclusion that freedom of expression is alive and well at ASUMH.”
• “While ASUMH is undoubtedly accountable to its governing and accrediting bodies, its internal and external auditors, and its constituents in Baxter and Marion Counties, it is the college’s pronounced commitment to genuine transparency and true shared governance that best substantiate its dedication to integrity in all matters. A true sense of integrity as well as dedication to students in all matters permeates the college campus.”
3 – Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support
• “In addition to the evidence files, in Team sessions with ASUMH personnel, the faculty and staff eloquently expressed their understanding of the importance of general education to assure that graduates, no matter their earned credential, leave the College with the skills that will help them succeed in both employment and in life.”
• “In their session with the Team, students discussed how connected they are to the faculty. A few shared poignant stories that outlined how caring, committed, and responsive faculty members have been in interacting with them both inside and outside of the classroom.”
• “The most common theme addressed the faculty’s patience and dedication during classes and in faculty-student tutoring sessions. One students remarked, they – the faculty – really care.”
• “During the meeting with community leaders, the Team learned that when several community members became aware that there were local high school students who could not attend because their parents’ income deemed them ineligible for financial aid, community members responded by creating a scholarship fund to ensure that any local high school graduate who desires a college education could apply for this scholarship to attend ASUMH without financial burden. This is both literally and figuratively an example of community commitment to ASUMH and its students.”
4 – Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement
• “During the HLC visit, faculty and staff lauded the importance and assistance of degree-specific advisory committees that meet biannually to discuss best practices, trends, and co-curricular opportunities (e.g., internships, apprenticeships) that are accessible to ASUMH students and relevant to enhancing their educational and/or career-related skills.”
• “ASUMH engages in practices and procedures that are student centered, data-driven, collaborative, and aligned with best practices in higher education.”
• “ASUMH develops long-term goals every five years, and then all College employees are invited to share their ideas for implementing annual strategic plans under the umbrella of the long-term goals. Once specific plans are adopted, the budgeting process begins. Staff and faculty reported to the Team that they are active participants in this planning and budgeting process and reiterated that departmental budget requests are approved only if they align with one of the long-term goals and link to a priority in the annual strategic plan. This assures that planning (both long-term and annual) and budgeting priorities align with the mission.”
5 – Resources, Planning, and Institutional Effectiveness
• “In the fiscal year 2017/2018, ASU received flat funding from the state. In addition, ASUMH experienced a decline in enrollment. Despite these common higher education challenges, the institution has the resources and infrastructure sufficient to support its comprehensive operations as evident by publicly available audited financial statements (ASU website).”
• “As a small public institution, ASUMH is experiencing the financial challenges of flat state support and declining enrollment. In response, the community has increased its giving and involvement with the College.”
• “The Chancellor of the College has earned the trust and respect of the community and of internal stakeholders.”
The report, indicates that ASUMH met each of the five components of review with no interim monitoring recommended. ASUMH was reaffirmed through the next reaffirmation of accreditation, which will occur in 2027-2028.
“It was a stellar report; the best I have ever read. I can truly thank the faculty, staff and community members for helping the Higher Learning Commission recognize ASUMH for the outstanding institution that we are,” said Dr. Martin Eggensperger, Vice Chancellor for Academics at ASUMH and chairman of the HLC Steering Committee at ASUMH.