Over the years, Sauk employees have participated in a variety of brainstorming activities. When asked to identify the college’s strengths, they have always included “employees” as one of those strengths. If there were ever any doubt about that being true, the self-study should put it to rest. Sauk employees demonstrated what makes them an institutional strength by how they worked on the self-study:
The entire self-study was accomplished by volunteers. Except for the writer (who received some release time from teaching duties), the people involved with the self-study received no extra compensation for any of the extra work they took on. The Steering Committee listed below is one such group. They volunteered to take responsibility for a portion of the study, attend meetings, conduct research, write outlines and drafts, and support one another. But much of the rest of the campus also volunteered their time to the effort: providing data and information; reading drafts; providing input and feedback; and participating in promotional activities, overseen by the self-study mascot, ACE, the Sauk Monkey (pictured). The HLC Focused Visit in 2006, for which the entire campus community prepared and which was credited with having “transformed” campus community interaction, also helped to keep the importance of the affirmation of accreditation process fresh in the minds of the faculty and staff who had participated.
As one of the first steps in the process, President Mihel articulated the following goals for the self-study:
- To assure that every employee understands and has the opportunity to participate in the reaccreditation process.
- To engage employees from all job classifications in a critical, comprehensive evaluation of the institution.
- To better understand our students and our evolving population base and to identify ways to better serve them.
- To identify the institutional strengths which may be built upon and the weaknesses which need improvement.
- To generate findings to be used in the institution’s strategic plan.
- To receive a ten year, continued accreditation from the HLC.
The contents of this report testify to the achievement of the first five of these goals. Sauk Valley Community College submits this self-study report with the assurance that the consultant-evaluators at the Reaffirmation of Accreditation Visit will be thoroughly convinced by their contact with the college community that the college merits continued accreditation from the HLC, thereby meeting the sixth and ultimate goal set for the self-study process.
Self-Study Process Chronology
FY08: The self-study process began early in FY08 with the appointment of Tom Gospodarczyk, Dean of Institutional Research and Planning, to the position of Self-Study Coordinator. By the end of that year, several important preparatory steps had been taken, including establishment of a budget for the project, design of the committee structure, and development of the timeline for completion.
FY09: The important task of assembling the self-study committees began in FY09 with the recruitment and orientation of criterion study committee co-chairs and other key resources who formed the Steering Committee for the study (listed below). In addition, orientation sessions were held for key leadership groups in the institution, including the Board of Trustees, college administrators, and the Sauk Valley College Foundation Board. After the entire campus community participated in an orientation session at the January 2009 in-service, the steering committee began recruiting volunteers for the criterion committees. Other activities during the year continued the preparation process:
- The Steering Committee met regularly to finalize the self-study design, the mission and charge of each committee, and the timeline for completion.
- The Self-Study Coordinator officially launched the study to the campus community at the March 2009 In-Service, introducing the self-study process, committee members, and the timeline.
- A group of nine Steering Committee representatives attended the self-study workshop at the HLC Annual Meeting.
- Each criteria study committee held its initial meeting before the end of the spring 2009 semester.
FY10: Starting with a kick-off at the opening in-service, Phase 1: Research engaged the college community during the fall semester of FY10. The steering committee met regularly to discuss progress and share issues; criterion committees collected data to evaluate and discuss; an employee questionnaire conducted electronically in November surveyed employee practices and attitudes identified by the various study committees.
By the spring 2010 semester, the self-study had reached Phase 2: Drafting Reports, using Cascade for web-based sharing of document outlining and data reporting. The Steering Committee meetings mixed serious discussion of the process with light-hearted, motivational camaraderie. The Study Coordinator, for example, presented each Steering Committee member with a wind-up chicken as a reminder that the punishment for submitting a criterion draft late, selected from a dozen or so options, was to be locked in a room to finish the report with the “Chicken Dance” song playing repeatedly. All drafts from the committee chairs were submitted on time, and Report Writer Jane Hamilton began her primary role in the self-study. Drafts were stored in Google.docs to allow for document-sharing during the early review and editing processes. A group of three attended the self-study workshop at the 2010 HLC Annual Meeting, where the new digital format requirement for the self-study was announced.
FY11: During Phase 3: Review, committee chairs worked to fill gaps in the report draft, and a second survey was conducted in November to obtain additional information from employees. During the spring 2011 semester, “reading parties” were conducted to obtain staff review of the self-study draft. Input and questions resulting from these sessions were used to improve the clarity and accuracy of the study report. The sessions began at the spring workshop day in March and continued through April, with 80 people participating in one or more of the sessions. Participants in the “reading parties” were included in a drawing for one of five $25 gift cards from local businesses. Administrators did a separate review of each criterion report to assure accuracy. The four steering committee members who attended the self-study workshop at the 2011 HLC Annual Meeting focused on information about the site visit. (This group brought to 100% the attendance at the Self-Study Workshop by Steering Committee members and Sauk administrators.) When digital requirements for the self-study report were finalized, Digital Report Designer Eric Epps took on a critical role in formatting the report for HLC as a .pdf and in creating an electronic resource room in Cascade.
The SSSS: During the fall 2010 semester, Coordinator Gospodarczyk had recruited membership for The Secret Society of the Self-Study (SSSS) to plan and carry out an awareness and information campaign. During the spring 2011 semester, the campaign got underway, overseen by the self-study mascot, ACE, the Sauk Monkey (a sock monkey). The primary goal of the campaign was to engage students as well as faculty and staff in the findings and significance of the self-study. The SSSS devised a semester-long campaign of information and activities that culminated in an online test, with prizes available for participants:
- A series of five postcards summarized findings, each featuring one criterion. These postcards were released periodically during the semester, handed out in conjunction with some activity (and candy) and available online. For example, when the final postcard was released, everyone on campus was invited to participate in a paper airplane throwing contest.
- A set of 12 posters featuring ACE were displayed around campus to announce the availability of each postcard and the activity accompanying it. By time the final postcard was available, a total of 60 posters had been displayed throughout the building.
- In April, a voluntary self-study test was conducted online, for which the postcards could be used. If a person could ACE the test with 100% correct, that participant’s name was entered in a drawing for one of five $25 gift cards from local businesses. The grand prize was a gift card and the chance to “Pie the President” in a public event on campus. A total of 78 staff and students took the test with 68 (87.2%) scoring 100%: 51 (92.7%) of 55 staff and 17 of 23 (73.9%) students.
FY12: At the end of FY11, the self-study process is going quietly forward. As the content is finalized, the work of editing and formatting the study in accordance with the new digital rules is underway. The college has solicited third party comments. The report will be submitted on time. In the meantime, the campus will begin FY12 in preparation for a site visit by an HLC Peer Review Team. The SSSS is prepared to undertake a final awareness and information campaign to make sure the whole campus community-- especially new students, faculty, and staff-- is aware of the study in its final form and the significance of both the study findings and the visit itself to the institution.