By Tina Alvey
The nation’s largest association overseeing higher education has granted the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine candidacy status for accreditation.
Notification of the candidacy status comes three years after WVSOM’s board of governors decided to seek accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The process thus far has included a rigorous self-assessment, a site visit by a team of distinguished educators and an HLC review of the site visit report.
Although HLC accreditation is not required for the Lewisburg medical school, administrators said securing the voluntary accreditation is part of WVSOM’s strategic plan to fulfill its mission of educating lifelong learners.
“It’s important for people to know that we remain fully accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation of the American Osteopathic Association,” said Jim Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s vice president of administration and external relations. “The HLC accreditation is another gold standard that we want to attain.”
Although the candidacy term is typically four years, the institution may file for early initial accreditation after two years. School administrators will continue to work with HLC staff to ensure WVSOM is on track to meet this goal.
Nemitz said, although the past couple of years have required hard work from all members of the campus community in pursuit of the initial candidacy, having full accreditation from the HLC will be a tremendous attribute for the institution.
“We are pleased to be affiliated with the HLC as a candidate for accreditation, and we look forward to working with the HLC to attain full accreditation in the future,” he said.
Helen Baker, the WVSOM professor coordinating the self-study process, expressed appreciation for the participation from all areas of the college community.
“Our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members all pulled together in helping WVSOM achieve candidacy,” she said. “We just need to keep up the good work.”
The self-study for initial candidacy required that WVSOM assess itself based on five criteria:
- Mission and integrity
- Preparing for the future
- Student learning and effective teaching
- Acquisition, discovery and application of knowledge
- Engagement in service
Earlier this year, with the self-study in full swing and a public comment period just getting under way, Nemitz told The Register-Herald, “The accreditation process is an exercise in quality improvement. It’s a standard of quality we want to maintain.”
He added, “The self-study is a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. It’s a good thing; it’s a positive thing.”
The HLC accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states, including West Virginia.
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