Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Back to Top How did SWIC identify its AQIP Action Projects?

The College's original four AQIP Action Projects were identified through the Vital Focus process in 2001 and 2002. All of these projects were completed and details can be found in the Archives section of this website.

The current Action Projects resulted from a slightly different process. The AQIP Steering Committee solicited and developed action project ideas from numerous sources and constituencies. Several important sources for new projects were: the AQIP Portfolio, the Feedback Analysis that was received from the Higher Learning Commission, and SWIC's results from its participation in CCSSE.

All Action Project drafts were distributed widely within the college community, the Steering Committee received written comments, and Action Project Forums were convened on each campus to discuss the three proposed projects. Following all of this input, the projects were put into a final draft.

In April 2006, SWIC hosted its first AQIP Check-Up Onsite Visit. This provided an opportunity for the College to receive a professional external review of its proposed Action Projects. Following the conclusion of the visit, the amended Projects were officially submitted to the Higher Learning Commission. 

Back to Top How did the college determine the organization of its AQIP Action Plan projects?

As part of the projects' design, faculty, staff, and administrators were formed into three task force groups and charged with responsibility for implementing the three projects. As with the original projects, vice-presidents were appointed as co-chairs to assure access to resources and top-level communication.

Trustees are briefed on the progress of the project monthly through a report that the Director of Planning makes to the Board's Planning and Policy Committee. The Strategic Planning Council also reviews Action Projects' progress as a standard item on its agenda.

Back to Top How did SWIC decide to become an AQIP institution?

Beginning in April of 2000, the AQIP alternative to accreditation was introduced to the College’s stakeholders. A series of briefings and updates were presented to the Board of Trustees, the President's Staff, the Curriculum Committee, to Faculty Orientation, to external advisory bodies, and to many other groups. In every case, the institution's interest and exploration efforts were endorsed and encouraged.

In spring of 2001, a formal advisory group of faculty and staff was given the responsibility to investigate AQIP, to develop a recommendation, and later, following approval by the Board of Trustees, to prepare the College’s application.

Back to Top How did SWIC identify its four AQIP Action Plans?

In 2001-2002 SWIC was selected as part of the beta group for a new AQIP process: Vital Focus. This collegial process required the participation of all stakeholders in a series of surveys, general assemblies, and topical discussion groups that were specifically designed to identify the top three or four areas where institutional improvement was critical to the college’s continued success.

Vital Focus involved four critical events. First, a major on-line survey, The Constellation Index, probed faculty and staff on issues of importance, strengths, weaknesses, and areas in which change was needed. Next, Higher Learning Commission (HLC) staff received the survey results directly, prepared analyses, and visited the college to deliver their findings. After campus reactions were collected, HLC staff then conducted a general assembly of all full-time and many part-time employees. This third event, the All College Discussion occurred on May 8, 2002 and resulted in extensive documentation of issues along with over 60 “provocative propositions” for improvement. All of these findings were published and widely distributed to faculty and staff. The final step was a series of faculty-staff discussion groups held at all three campuses in summer and fall of 2002 to further interpret and consolidate the May 8 results.

Vital Focus produced four high-priority needs that formed the basis for the AQIP Action Projects. The four draft action plans were presented to the College community for discussion during summer and fall of 2002, were reviewed with the Board of Trustees, and a final set of plans was submitted to the HLC.

Back to Top How did the college determine how to implement its four AQIP Action Plan projects?

As required by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a team comprising the president, three administrators, two trustees, seven faculty, and one staff member was formed. This group of 14 traveled to Chicago for three days of sessions with HLC staff, consultants, and teams from peer institutions in October of 2002. This process, called the Strategy Forum, resulted in further refinement of the action plans along with an implementation strategy.

The team concluded its work in early 2003; the HLC accepted the final revisions to the four AQIP Action Plans in February of 2003 and implementation began at this point.

Back to Top When will the AQIP Action Projects be completed?

Action projects are geared for implementation over a three-year period. Typically, the first year or so is dedicated to research, peer group study, assessment, and evaluation. This period is also used to develop a consensus or at least a majority understanding of the issues involved in the area being assessed. The findings are used to create a plan that is practical, that “fits” the institution and that can be implemented in a reasonable period of time.

Some plans may be ahead of schedule and can achieve full implementation in less than three years. When this occurs, the college will be asked to develop a new AQIP Action Plan to take the place of the original. Thus, the AQIP process is one of continuous self-improvement where Southwestern always has a well-founded agenda for positive change.

Back to Top Who is involved in the AQIP Action Plans?

Each plan has one or more committees consisting of employees from every aspect and location of the college. Some 77 employees are involved in the effort! The president assigned a lead role to each vice-president and the Board of Trustees receives a monthly report on the progress that is being made.