Augusta University has streamlined its accreditation reporting for Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) by customizing its faculty activity reporting solution to serve as the source of record for faculty credentialing data. At the recent SACSCOC conference, Ray Whiting, Associate Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness for Assessment and Special Education Initiatives at Augusta, and Laurisa Perlberg, Watermark Client Success Manager, discussed how they collaborated to leverage data already captured in their faculty activity reporting system—and turned this information into actionable reports.
Learn how the university and Digital Measures by Watermark partnered to create the fields, screens and reports Augusta used for SACSCOC approval of a substantive change after merging primarily undergraduate and primarily graduate schools into a single institution, and for reaffirmation just 18 months later. Here are the highlights of their conversation.
Founded in 1828, Augusta is a public research university offering undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, business and education as well as a full range of graduate programs and hands-on clinical research opportunities. Its medical center is dedicated to training the next generation of innovators, leaders and health care providers. The university has three campuses in Augusta as well as satellite locations across Georgia.
Partnership with Watermark
Augusta’s Hull College of Business began using Digital Measures by Watermark in 2007; the university adopted it campus-wide in 2014. Augusta uses the system for:
- Annual reviews
- Faculty web profiles
- Credentialing reports
- SACS faculty roster
- NIH/HSF Biosketch reports
- Professional accreditation reporting
- Promotion and tenure.
Augusta’s Credentialing Challenge
With more than 1,600 faculty across schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, allied health, education, business and liberal arts, Augusta needed the ability to demonstrate clearly and at a glance that faculty across a wide range of disciplines are credentialed for the courses they teach.
“We have this huge mix of faculty that all have unique needs for accreditation that we must be able to show,” Whiting said. “Some are qualified not just by degrees but certificates, licenses and professional experience, so we really have to be able to do a lot of work to demonstrate clearly and at first glance that these faculty are credentialed to be able to teach.”
In addition, Augusta is growing and adding programs, which also require substantive change approval from SACSCOC. Having this data available at all times has been critical for Augusta, Whiting said.
“Doing faculty credentialing is very difficult for every single institution. It’s time consuming and people don’t actually want to do it. It’s often very frustrating for those people involved because it can be threatening to hear, ‘I need to give an alternate justification for you,’” Whiting shared. “Most of us gear up, work really hard on it before the [SACSCOC] visitation is going to take place, then we stop and take a breath and just kind of forget about it. But the problem is, you need that data more and more frequently these days, and most of us don’t have a good process for doing this. It’s a continuous process.”
Making the Faculty Roster Process Easy
Augusta originally tried housing faculty credentialing in PeopleSoft, but that didn’t work because it only allowed for short justifications, and some parts of those regularly got lost. “The process was messy,” Whiting said, so they looked to Watermark for a solution. “Digital Measures by Watermark helped us achieve several goals that none of the other efforts were able to do,” Whiting said. He considers these attributes essential for a successful credentialing system:
- All the data needed for faculty credentials, including alternate justifications, must be in one database
- Credentialing data must be easy for both faculty and administrators to review
- Errors in institutional data from other systems of record should be identified as a normal part of the faculty members’ review process
- Alternative justification information needs a permanent home
- The system must have a SACS Faculty Roster that can be run with the touch of a button
To useDigital Measures by Watermark for faculty credentialing and other reporting, Augusta automated data imports from campus systems of record including:
- HR Data (PeopleSoft)
- Course Data (Banner)
- Faculty Development Data
- Grants Office Data
Nightly data imports from those systems of record provide Augusta with a single database with faculty names, colleges and departments, academic degrees with Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes, special licensure and certifications held, all classes by year, semester and level with CIP codes, and all administrative positions held.
To this automated dataset, administrators and faculty add the following information as a part of the annual review process:
- Administratively approved alternative justifications
- Faculty publications and presentations
- Faculty honors and awards
- Additional graduate level education earned
- Service activities
“With all the data on faculty credentials pulled into one database, it’s accessible to faculty. They can look at the accuracy of the information so it can be cleaned up if there are inaccuracies in systems of record. “Data errors are always going to be a problem. If your faculty aren’t viewing your data on a regular basis, then that data is going to continue to be wrong,” Whiting said. “One of the things that’s valuable about Digital Measures by Watermark is that faculty see the data, and they have an interest in ensuring it’s correct. The more you let the sun shine on data, the more accurate it gets and the more useful it becomes.”
Augusta has successfully used the SACSCOC faculty rosters generated byDigital Measures by Watermark to support:
- University consolidation/merger substantive change report
- Decennial reaffirmation
- New program development proposals
- New program site substantive change reports
All reviews resulted in no negative findings related to faculty qualifications.
Flexible Qualifications Reporting
Based on experience with Augusta and many other clients facing the challenge of reporting on faculty credentials to various accrediting bodies, Watermark is working to provide a standard yet flexible approach to credentialing. “We’ve discovered that some institutions want a broad approach to dealing with “other qualifications,” while others want to drill down to the individual course level,” Perlberg said. “We want to provide solutions and best practices for both.”
In early 2018, Digital Measures by Watermark released an updated base SACSCOC Faculty Roster report that’s a good starting point for any university, and can be customized to individual requirements. Contact us today if you’re interested in using it.