My early days as a faculty member at The University of West Alabama were filled with classes, labs, meetings with students, and committee meetings. Later on, I served as Department Chair and then Assistant Dean at UWA and the committee work picked up. Then there was a year as Department Head at Pensacola State College followed by four years as an Academic Dean. Committees, committees, and committees. Then came a number of years as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at lake-Sumter State College. Wow, talk about committees! Those of you in similar roles know what I mean.
So, where am I going with this? I am encouraging you to serve on more committees. Serving on a SACSCOC (or any of the *formerly* regional accreditors) committee is a treat because it is not really a committee, but more of a team. In particular, I encourage you to seek out opportunities to serve as a member of an onsite team. The onsite team gets to really experience the culture and atmosphere of an institution while meeting interesting people who are doing similar jobs to yours in similar environments. My first visit was in 2007 or so and I remember being surprised by how much I was enjoying the experience. It occurred to me that the visiting team was composed of the best and brightest of their respective institutions and everybody wanted to be there. It was an amazing experience for a young Assistant Professor. Lest I paint to idyllic a picture, I understand that all visiting committees are not smooth sailing. We heard a number of scary stories during training to serve as chair of visiting committees. Any of those scenarios would have been a learning experience of a different sort! I’m happy to report that none of my committees went sideways.
When you are serving on a committee you get to interact with your team members and the people at the institution you are visiting in a way that you don’t interact with your colleagues on your own campus. In some cases you will gain perspectives about other college divisions that you would not have by staying on your own campus. You will see different ways of doing things, both among the team and while on the actual visit. While you are reviewing the institution you are visiting, you will be reflecting on how processes on your own campus work (or don’t). Either way, your interactions will leave you with good ideas that you will carry to your institution.
So, how do you get on a committee? First, you need to get into the reviewer directory. You do that by reading the “how to” document and contacting your institution’s Accreditation Liaison. Once your president approves, you will be eligible to be chosen. When will you be chosen? There is no magic formula. I once served on a Substantive Change committee visiting a college in Europe as a new off-campus instructional site for a U.S. college because the program in question was environmental in nature and I was the only environmental science person in the directory. There was also a period of years when I was not invited to serve on a visiting team. When I was serving as the Accreditation Liaison I was known to reach out to my institution’s SACSCOC Vice President to request opportunities for myself and others on my campus.
I’ll leave you with this thought. When I was VPAA, I had an Academic Dean go on a visit. When she got back I followed up to see how her experience had been. She replied, “It was the single best professional development experience ever!” Don’t miss out, get yourself into the directory.