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Air University prepares for SACS reaffirmation

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- With all the fervor of a major inspection, Air University is preparing for reaffirmation of its accreditation of all education programs by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, according to Dr. Dot Reed, AU chief of Academic Affairs and Accreditation Liaison.

"This is the highest of academic inspections," she said in anticipation of the arrival of 12 evaluators March 1 for the three-day, on-site portion of the reaccreditation.

She added it is considered a "peer" review as the evaluators are leading educators in their respective member universities of SACS. She said the only restriction is they cannot be from a university in Alabama.

Dr. Reed explained the Commission of Colleges of SACS is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. Among local AU schools that grant degrees are Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, and the Community College of the Air Force, she said.

Dr. Reed said there may be a misconception that only degree-granting schools are evaluated, but she wanted to emphasize the commission will look at everything that falls under Air University.

"This is the first time we've been re-evaluated," mentioned Dr. Reed as AU passed its first SACS accreditation in 2004. To remain accredited, AU must pass reaffirmations every five years, she added.

The evaluation actually started 15 months ago when AU was required to submit a compliance certification. Dr. Reed described the certification as a document showing its compliance with each of the core requirements, comprehensive standards, and federal requirements for the evaluation. This document is reviewed by the SACS off-site team and will be validated during the on-site visit.

Another significant document of the evaluation is the "Quality Enhancement Plan" that is submitted four to six weeks prior to the on-sight visit, Dr. Reed said.

"We are having a media blitz to get the word out on the QEP," she said. "It is possible an evaluator could walk up to anyone on the street at AU and ask about the QEP, and many of our current faculty and students were not here when we proposed and selected the QEP nearly two years ago. The school deans, the Board of Visitors and many others reviewed several proposals and took part in the selection of our QEP topic."

She said the QEP is a document that includes a broad-based institutional process identifying key issues emerging from institutional assessment and focuses on learning outcomes and/or the environment supporting student learning and accomplishing the mission of the institution. The QEP identifies goals and a plan to assess their achievement, she said.

Dr. Reed said she hopes everyone at AU becomes aware that AU's QEP is "Cross Culturally Competent (3C) Airmen". She said "3C" is defined as the ability to comprehend and effectively act in a culturally complex environment to achieve the desired effect - without necessarily having had prior exposure to a particular group, region or language. She said each school's role in the QEP can be found at www.culture.af.edu/qep.html. She also said blue cards with this information are being distributed throughout AU.

When the on-site visit is completed, evaluators will analyze their observations and findings to compile a report that will be sent to the Commission on Colleges along with AU's response if there are any areas of non-compliance, Dr. Reed said. She added the commission will then make the final decision for reaccreditation.