Saturday, March 7, 2009

MLIS Advisory Council Meeting

Thank you to Liz Scheibel and Sehri Strom for attending the MLIS Advisory Council Meeting this week as SGO Representatives! Here are Liz's notes from the meeting:
  • Mary Wagner conducted the meeting, with Debbie Yang taking notes. Other attendees were faculty Marilyn Cathcart and Susan Shoemaker, students Liz Scheibel and Sehri Strom, and about 6-8 librarians.

  • The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the documents that the program and St. Kate’s are preparing to send to the ALA COA for review before the April meeting (all documents are in draft form). Mary began by describing the three standards in which COA saw problems.

  • We looked at the assessment document, with Mary walking us through it. There wasn’t much discussion on that specific document, because it wasn’t available before the meeting. One librarian offered the suggestion that St. Kate’s should phrase their presentation in particular ways in order to not be confrontational - we want to suggest that we didn’t clearly show some of these things in our program presentation, and we want to show that the college (as a larger institution) has also investigated these issues (and then go on to present the college’s response).

  • Mary mentioned that one of the things they are seeking from the COA is a longer look back period for those who have already graduated once the program gets accreditation. Usually the look back is one year, and they are hoping for two years. Other things they are asking for are an earlier visit (currently scheduled for 2012), preferably this coming fall. Of course they would love to see the COA reverse their decision, but that probably isn’t realistic. Mary also mentioned that since it’s not a decision meeting, she is hoping there can be more dialog between the people from CSC and the COA. She really wants to present to the COA that St. Kate’s is pressing the issue because it’s about the students - the students need accredited degrees and they’ve done the work for them.

  • The librarians present wanted to know of letters from employers would help, and Mary said that they might if those letters specifically addressed how the program meets the COA standards. Minnesota Library Association will be sending a letter, and SGO is working on one.

  • We talked about the issues the COA had with the revised curriculum that’s in the works at St. Kate’s. The feeling is that COA didn’t quite understand what this means, and we wondered if “revision” was the right word (perhaps that implies more sweeping change than it should). Also, CSC wants to make sure the COA understands that the program has still had Dominican students, so we could not step away from the relationship entirely until those students had completed their degrees.

  • The draft document regarding curriculum was discussed, and the faculty asked for some help in toning it down; they have had a hard time not letting their emotions creep into the way they are writing the documents. The purpose of this document is to show that St. Kate’s has met the standards with the current curriculum, and that we have and will continue to have a defined curriculum, even as it is revised. Some changes have been made from DU, an accredited curriculum, but the basics remain the same. The draft we saw showed a lot of comparison to DU, but they are going to take out a lot of that in order to focus on the CSC program, to show that we have our own program.

  • Other suggestions for the document included making the extensive tables into appendices and creating a sample of what a syllabus under the in-progress “new” curriculum would look like, compared to what is currently used (to show that it’s more of a tightening of the curriculum we already have, not a massive change in content).

  • An interesting point that Mary made was that the accreditation process isn’t really designed for a program like ours: a program that has been operating through the accreditation of another school. Therefore, some of the process for accreditation doesn’t fit us very well and those involved on the other end of the process (COA and the panel) can easily misunderstand how the CSC-DU relationship has worked and is working now.

  • Regarding the COA’s concerns about faculty research, the representatives from the College as a whole will primarily tackle this at the April meeting. The standards ask that an accredited program be in line with the parent organization in terms of faculty research, so it makes sense for the College to address this. They want to acknowledge that the MLIS faculty is rather young, and that is why some faculty members haven’t produced a lot of research yet; they are at the beginning of the productive cycle. The MLIS program has been interested in having some younger faculty in order to build for the future. Also, CSC doesn’t hire people into fully tenured faculty positions, so it’s important that COA understand that when evaluating how many of our faculty are tenured, etc.

  • The meeting ended with more discussion on how to approach the April meeting and phrase all of the things we want to get across. The librarians present encouraged the MLIS program to begin by recognizing that some elements may have not been properly or clearly addressed in the program presentation - they should not walk in there and tell the COA that they just missed it all. CSC should embrace the opportunity to clarify and highlight things that will address COA’s concerns. They should thank the COA for helping CSC to evaluate itself carefully, for pushing the program to be the best it can, and for being conscientious stewards of the standards and accreditation (accreditation wouldn’t mean anything if just any program could get it).

  • On a personal note, I think the documents that the faculty and college are working on look great. The department has been working a lot with the college’s institutional research office in order to add in more data, which it sounded like the COA would like to see. A huge amount of preparation is going into these documents and this meeting. The documents will be available for students to see once they are done (the versions that we saw had whole chunks missing and tables that had been thrown together that afternoon, so when I say draft, I really do mean draft). It’s a tough task to turn off your frustration and disappointment in order to meet with an open mind and try to achieve a better result. This meeting made me feel more optimistic than I had been feeling before.

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