MIDDLE STATES SELF-STUDY GUIDE

Self-Study FAQs

What is the Self-Study Process?

The self-study process is, technically, a comprehensive review of the university that happens with the regional accrediting body. Every institution in the country who awards federal financial aid dollars must be regionally accredited and participate in the designated self-study processes.

Mercyhurst is in the region of the United States that is overseen by the Middle States Commission for Higher Education (MSCHE). In MSCHE’s processes, the self-study happens every eight years and is designed to be a systematic, guided review of the entire institution.

Haven’t we done this before?

Yes! Mercyhurst has been accredited by MSCHE since 1931. However, it is important to know that MSCHE has gone through a set of substantive changes since we last participated in the process. The Standards of Accreditation are new, as are many of the policies and the self-study process. For those of you who have participated in MSCHE self-studies before, we’d ask you to be aware of the many changes to the process. In particular, you’ll find that there are now clear guidelines and structures in place for how the self-study process must happen.

What are the qualities of a good Self-Study?

According to MSCHE, the self-study process should be an honest appraisal of the state of the institution. The document itself should be entirely evidence-driven and consistently demonstrate the use of assessment. While the self-study is a good place to share institutional accomplishments and highlight outcomes, it is also important to discuss areas for ongoing innovation and improvement.

In addition, MSCHE expects that the entire Self-Study process is a university-wide initiative. Everyone across campus – whether staff, faculty, or student – should know that the process is happening, be aware of the basics of the process, and have opportunities to participate.

So the focus is on evidence?

Yes – more than ever before, MSCHE is being very clear about what they define “evidence” to include and how it should be presented. In fact, the new Self-Study process is centered around something called the Evidence Inventory. Gone are the days of filling rooms with random paperwork – the Evidence Inventory is a cataloged and referenced inventory of documents, processes, and procedures. The Evidence Inventory serves four primary functions: to document compliance with the standards; to support assertions made in the self-study report; to add consistency and coherence to the final document; and to develop a long-term resources that the university should continuously update to document ongoing compliance.

MSCHE states that all evidence must be: organized, analytical, concise, and fair and honest.

Self-Study Timeline

October 2019: Self-Study Institute
March 1, 2020: SSD Draft Due
April 2020: Self-Study Prep Visit with MSCHE Liaison
June 15, 2020: Final SSD Due
September 1, 2021: Self-Study Report Sent to Team Chair
October 2021: Team Chair Preliminary Visit
February 1, 2022: Final Document Upload
March 2022: Self-Study Evaluation Team Visit
April 2022: Team Report
May 2022: Institutional Response
May 31, 2022: Review Closes
November 2022: MSCHE Commission Action

May 22, 2020 Update: The final draft of our Self-Study Design is now available for public consumption. Please contact the Steering Committee with any questions or feedback you may have on this document.

Second Interim Reports

Please use the buttons below to read the second interim report from each working group. Please email ie@mercyhurst.edu if you have any questions or would like to provide feedback.

Self-Study Work Groups

Work Groups in the new MSCHE Self-Study process are assigned based on the university’s chosen Self-Study approach. Mercyhurst has chosen the Standards-Based Approach. In this approach, the Self-Study is organized around MSCHE’s seven standards for accreditation. As such, we have created a Work Group for each individual standard as well as an additional Work Group to focus on compliance.  

Work Groups serve as one pillar in the foundation of a good Self-Study process. Work Groups are responsible for gathering evidence of current practices and framing how the final Self-Study document will ultimately be organized. The activity level of each Work Group is likely to vary over the course of the Self-Study process, but the majority of the work will be concentrated in the 2020 calendar year.

One important point is that Work Groups are not tasked with creating new mechanisms for assessment – rather, their goal is to gather evidence that already exists and identify gaps in what we already do. The mantra, if you will, that MSCHE suggests for Work Groups to take on is:  Do we have it?  Do we use it? Does it work?

In general, the jobs of the Work Group are to:

  • Promote the self-study process across campus
  • Gather evidence to show how we meet the criteria for their assigned standard
  • Identify any gaps in evidence
  • Provide interim reports to the Steering Committee
  • Provide a final report to the Steering Committee to address their standard

When writing the interim and final reports, the Work Groups should remember that they will be asked to focus on addressing the standards and institutional priorities.  In doing so, it is important that the Work Group uses data to demonstrate institutional performance. That data should be presented in a way that makes clear any assumptions and demonstrates that the data are interpreted appropriately (including a discussion of the statistics or other analysis methods). Finally, it is important to use the analysis to show opportunities for innovation and improvement.

Also new to the Self-Study process is the existence of a team of Writers who will ultimately be responsible for taking the information compiled by the Work Groups and turning into a concise and coherent single document. It is not the job of the Work Groups to write the document itself. Rather, it can be helpful to think of this process as creating a sort-of annotated bibliography of what assessments exist, how they are tied to the standards, what the assessments tell us, and how they have been used to make decisions.

MSCHE says that, “what is most important is that (1) working group members represent a broad range of constituencies at the institution, (2) the working groups have designated leaders to keep them on task and on schedule, (3) the working groups understand their charge and abide by it, and (4) the steering committee and working groups established a mechanism for accountability and effective communication between them.” Mercyhurst has worked to achieve these four key points in a number of ways.  First, the Work Groups were designed to be broadly representative of stakeholders from across campus.  Second, each Work Group has a Chair as well as a Steering Committee liaison to guide them through the process; this will also help us with the third goal of keeping the groups on task and following their charge.  Finally, we’ve put into place a Microsoft Teams environment for facilitating communication and sharing information and documents, both among the Work Group members as well as with the Steering Committee. 

Self-Study Steering Committee Members

  • Dr. Joanne Hosey-McGurk, Chair, Assistant Professor of English
  • Dr. Carrie Allen, Assessment Coordinator
  • Dr. Dyan Jones, Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Associate Professor of Physics
  • Ms. Lucy Belleau '22, Mercyhurst Student Government President
  • Mr. Jeffrey Taylor, Director of Finance and Budget
  • Dr. Laura Zirkle, Vice President for Student Life

Working Group IV is charged with conducting a thorough investigation of the quality and effectiveness of the services that support and enhance the student learning experience. Its focus is on MSCHE Standard IV, as well as the Requirements of Affiliation that are related to the student services that support the learning experience. Specifically, it is entrusted to:

  • Identify all existing evidence—that is, documents, processes, data, and results—to support each of the criterion of the Standard
  • Identify any gaps in the evidence—that is, where a criterion is under- or un-supported
  • Describe what each piece of evidence is used for
  • Analyze the collection of evidence in relation to the criteria to determine:
    • Do we have it? (Is the evidence for the criterion sufficient?)
    • Do we use it? (Can we show that this is a regular and useful practice?)
    • Does it work? (Can we show how we use the evidence in our efforts toward innovation and continuous improvement?)
  • Submit reports following stated guidelines that match evidence to criteria

Working Group actions will include:

  • Holding regular meetings
  • Posting meeting minutes on Teams and completing the Work Group Meeting Attendance Form
  • Submitting interim reports on time

Standard IV Work Group Members​​​​​​​

  • Ms. Sarah Allen, Chair, Executive Director for Campus Involvement
  • Ms. Andrea Barnett, Associate Provost for Academic Services and Support
  • Mr. Bradly Davis, Director of Athletics
  • Ms. Stacey Gadette, Head Coach, Women's Field Hockey
  • Dr. Joseph Morris, Chair, Political Science Department and Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Ms. Michelle Simpson, Director of Student Life
  • Dr. Judy Smith, Executive Director of Wellness
  • Ms. Dionne Veitch, Executive Director of Marketing/Brand Management
  • Ms. Michele Wheaton, Registrar

Contact Us

Carrie Allen
Assessment Coordinator
Office: Preston 123
Phone: 814-824-2087
Email: callen@mercyhurst.edu