The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has renewed accreditation for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo for seven years noting the large number of new initiatives that strengthen the university in areas that have been problematic in the past.
A review team from WASC’s Senior College and University Commission visited the Hilo campus last fall, and recommended to grant UH Hilo accreditation through 2022, with an interim report due in spring of 2017, a mid-cycle review in 2019 and a full review in 2021.
“The visiting WASC team was impressed by the level of commitment and passion exhibited by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and they commended us on knowing our mission and vision well and in using both to inform what we do,” said UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney.
During the review process, UH Hilo was part of a group of pilot institutions to test a new institutional review process in advance of the 2013 approval of the new Handbook of Accreditation. In the pilot, institutions were asked to focus on new areas that had not been previously required.
Noting that UH Hilo was forging new ground, the review team recognized the university’s level of “candor, transparency, self-awareness and commitment to continuous learning” that “demonstrated a high level of quality and rigor invested in the accreditation process.”
The commission highlighted several areas for special recognition, among them:
- A sense of place, which conveys the importance Hilo feels about passing the culture of Hawaiʻi Island to the current generation while at the same time focusing on the creation of new meanings for the future.
- A mission rooted in Hawaiian traditions, notably in the area of applied learning experiences, including community based projects, service learning, research internships, practica, creative activities and capstone projects.
- Strong, well-respected leadership as well as committed staff and faculty-key elements in ensuring longer-term educational effectiveness and financial sustainability. The review team concluded, “UH Hilo is a campus of resiliency in action.”
The commission also offered guidance in areas the University could strengthen, including the “remarkable” applied learning program, retention and graduation rates, review for academic programs, and distance education.
“I want to give a special mahalo to the people on UH Hilo’s WASC Accreditation Committee who worked hard preparing the institutional report that served as the basis for the visit,” said Straney. “I also want to thank our alumni who met with the team. Their description of UH Hilo as a transformative educational experience greatly impressed the review team.”