The sun sets over the Malibu campus Nov. 3. The WSCUC team completed their virtual visit to Pepperdine on Oct. 22 and will release a report with its evaluations by mid-March 2022. Photo by William Bacon
After a week of community members interviewing with WSCUC officials, WSCUC will release a report with its evaluations of Pepperdine by mid-March 2022, said Kevin Worthen, the chair for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges team.
WSCUC held meetings with groups of students Oct. 21, in which interviewees voiced their experiences and provided suggestions on how Pepperdine can improve on items such as student inclusivity.
WSCUC finalized the virtual visit by listing their commendations for the University, along with recommendations on how Pepperdine as an institution can improve.
“Every so often, we as an institution have to undergo a reaffirmation of the accreditation process,” Seaver Dean Michael Feltner said. “This process consists of a group of peers from around the country who have been trained to come in to look at our processes and determine whether it is appropriate to reaffirm our accreditation.”
Accreditation stems from WASC Senior College and University Commission, which decides if Pepperdine is eligible to access federal funds and disburse student financial aid, Feltner said. WSCUC visits within 10 years of the last cycle, with the most recent visit to Pepperdine occurring in 2012.
WSCUC evaluation also included Pepperdine’s headquarters for the Graduate School of Education and Psychology as well as the Graziadio School of Business in West Los Angeles, along with the graduate campus in Irvine.
On Sept. 30, the WSCUC team visited Pepperdine’s West Los Angeles and Irvine campuses and conducted interviews with the campuses’ respective deans, students and faculty, wrote April Marshall, Hispanic Studies professor and co-chair of the WSCUC steering committee, in an Oct. 17 email to the Graphic.
WSCUC Interviews and Students
WSCUC evaluations for Seaver College and the graduate schools changed since the COVD-19 pandemic began, with all tasks and interviews shifting onto Zoom, Marshall wrote.
During her student interview process with the WSCUC team, Tamie Daniels, SGA senior class senator, said two accreditation team members asked the students questions about their experiences at Seaver College.
“Overall, this is an important process for students to be aware of and to be able to voice their concerns and share their experiences with the team,” Daniels said.
Students also had the option to email the WSCUC committee, Daniels said.
SGA President and senior Chase Johnson said members of student government, and students from each academic division by nomination from divisional deans, had the opportunity to undergo an interview with WSCUC staff by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
“We don’t have legitimacy without our accreditation, so this is a very important process that we do go through to get the accreditation that gives legitimacy to our degrees,” Johnson said. “So it’s important to not be understated.”
Johnson and Daniels said student involvement is crucial regarding the WSCUC cycles.
“It’s vital for the accreditors to see the effectiveness, not only on papers and spreadsheets but through conversations with students, to see how our students are actually being transformed by their education here,” Johnson said.
The WSCUC process is also important to determine whether the University’s quality of education is comparable to other schools in the region, Daniels said.
The accreditation process is valuable for students to not only share their perspective but also for students’ financial aid, Daniels said.
“The accreditation team determines if Pepperdine can get federal aid disbursed through the Department of Education, which is something that impacts a lot of students,” Daniels said.
Accreditation allows universities to be eligible for state-funding, according to the Accreditation and Higher Education Act.
Student-led Calls to WSCUC
Students such as Daniels said they want more diversity regarding Pepperdine’s curriculum.
“I requested that Pepperdine wholeheartedly commit to the fostering of global citizens by incorporating more diverse voices and perspectives in its curriculum,” Daniels said.
Pepperdine’s student-led LGBTQ+ representing organization, Crossroads Gender and Sexuality Alliance, called for all staff to complete SEED — Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity — training, Crossroads wrote in an email to WSCUC.
“Students deserve respect, students deserve kindness, students deserve more than what we have received,” Crossroads wrote in an email to WSCUC.
Pepperdine’s Commendations and Recommendations
At the end of the WSCUC virtual interviewing and spectating process, Worthen gave five commendations and recommendations for Pepperdine.
Pepperdine’s adherence to WSCUC’s predetermined set of themes determines reaffirmation of accreditation, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. This leads to a report development and recommendations regarding Pepperdine’s institutional progress, said Worthen.
These themes include: meaning; quality and integrity of degree programs; knowledge sharing and program reviews and assessments, according to the OIE.
The five praises the WSCUC team shared include: Pepperdine’s adherence to vision of community, collaborating with the OIE by focusing on student-learning outcomes to make better informed decisions regarding student success, shifting style of assessment to focus on curriculum, developing visual reports on student performance and group environments and having strong financial leadership that embraces strategic planning, Worthen said.
One of the five recommendations the WASC team had for Pepperdine was to create a clear definition of “diversity, equity and inclusion” that aligns with the University’s mission with the full participation of campus constituents, including the Board of Regents and senior leadership, Worthen said.
“Develop an integrated, actionable plan and accountability mechanism to create a more inclusive environment that addresses equity and inclusion issues identified by campus constituents,” Worthen said.
The other four recommendations include developing codification of shared governance between administrators and faculty to receive more input; develop purposes for knowledge sharing and related protocols; address misconceptions regarding assessment of student learning in Pepperdine; and create stronger integration of student achievement reports and program outcomes, Worthen said.
Marshall wrote she believes the WSCUC accreditation processes allowed community members at Pepperdine to take time to reflect on the University’s strengths and areas for improvement.
“This process has been a self-study, and it helped us think more deeply about accomplishments and challenges, as is the case in all of higher education,” Marshall wrote. “I am grateful to the WSCUC Steering Committee for their hard work and the larger Pepperdine community for supporting our ongoing efforts related to accreditation generally and this reaffirmation more specifically.”
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