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Saint Mary’s successfully completes Year 4 Assurance Review by the Higher Learning Commission

August 17, 2021

Cardinal Update News Newsletters

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) notified Saint Mary’s University last week that we have successfully completed our Open Pathway Year 4 Assurance Review and, significantly, we have met all standards with no monitoring required. This is the highest level of passing we can achieve. This is cause to celebrate! We have now completed the mid-cycle institutional review conducted by the HLC in year 4 of our 10-year accreditation cycle. Our next Assurance Review will occur as part of a broader comprehensive evaluation in 2026.

This four-year review is a critical milestone in our institution’s regional accreditation. A team of our peers — academic and operational leadership from five other institutions in the region — completed an extensive virtual evaluation of Saint Mary’s academic and operational activities. We were informed that we successfully met each and every one of HLC’s five Criteria for Accreditation, including 86 separate standards. These standards serve as the measures of quality by which HLC determines whether an institution merits continuation of its accreditation. Saint Mary’s regionally accredited status, in place since 1934, allows our students to participate in federal financial student aid programs while providing us with the tools to engage in continuous quality improvement of our programs and our institution.

Our president, Father James P. Burns, IVD, Ph.D., noted that this news speaks to the thorough preparation that engaged so many people over the past four years. Father Burns stated, “The review provided an excellent opportunity for Saint Mary’s to both highlight our steady and ongoing adherence to best practices in higher education, and showcase the progress and improvements we’ve made to our programs, our services, and our campuses over the last four years. The Year 4 review also allows us to demonstrate the ways in which we continue to set a course for a hope-filled future while fulfilling our Lasallian Catholic mission to awaken, nurture, and empower learners to ethical lives of service and leadership.”

This project would not have been successful without the work of dozens of faculty and staff from across the university over the past two years. The Year 4 Project Team took on the substantial task of updating the comprehensive repository of evidence demonstrating Saint Mary’s adherence to the HLC accreditation criteria across all of our academic, financial, and operational functions. In addition, multiple staff and faculty devoted time, energy, and resources in the project’s final months to ensure a successful outcome. While it is impossible to list everyone who contributed, below we recognize the Year 4 project team and the key contributors who went above and beyond for their sustained efforts:

Steering committee:

  • Brian Schmisek, Ph.D., provost and dean of faculties
  • Brother Robert Smith, FSC, Ph.D., senior vice president for university initiatives and special advisor to the president
  • Timothy Gossen, Ed.D., vice president for student affairs
  • Robin Hemenway, Ph.D., director of accreditation and compliance
  • Ben Murray, CPA, MPA, executive vice president and chief financial officer

Project team members and key contributors:

  • Dave Ansell, B.S., director of procurement and auxiliary services
  • Erin Ayala, Ph.D., course-contracted assistant professor, Psy.D. in Counseling Psychology
  • Carolyn Ayers, Ph.D., professor of English and world languages, associate dean for general education
  • Alison Block, B.S., associate registrar
  • Brett Bodsgard, Ph.D., professor of chemistry
  • Crystal Carlson, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
  • Andrea Carroll-Glover, MBA, vice provost for online strategy and programs
  • Lori Charron, Ph.D., professor of business and communication
  • Elizabeth Childs (now retired), M.A., associate dean of curriculum and assessment
  • Stacy Dean, Ph.D., director for university writing services
  • Nicola Imbracsio, Ph.D., director of curriculum and assessment
  • Susan Jarosak, M.A., interim dean, School of Health and Human Services
  • Andrew John, Psy.D., assistant professor, Psy.D. in Counseling Counseling Psychology
  • Jenny Kuderer, M.A., institutional research analyst
  • Dave Miliotis, MBA, assistant vice president for human resources
  • Marisa Naryka, Ed.D., vice president for Mission and Ministry
  • Matt Nowakowski, Ed.D., interim vice provost for faculties and academic affairs
  • Laura Oanes, M.L.S., director for university library services
  • Adam Potthast, Ph.D., former interim director of Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching
  • Laura Roy, B.S., director of admission – SGPP
  • Antar Salim, DBA, core associate professor, Doctor of Business Administration
  • Barbara Schmidtknecht, administrative assistant, academic affairs
  • Holly Tapper, J.D., course-contracted professor
  • David Ulaszek, M.A., assistant vice president for finance – budgeting and planning
  • Nancy Van Erp, Ph.D., program director, M.Ed. in Learning Design and Technology
  • Paul Weiner, Ph.D. (now retired) professor of mathematics, computer science, and statistics
  • Kara Wener, M.S., director of Institutional Research
  • Nick Winecke, M.A., associate director of athletics, head baseball coach

“This was a herculean effort, from the steering committee and project team to dozens of people across the university who provided information, resources, and documentation to support the review,” Father Burns added. “It epitomizes commitment, collaboration, and our shared care for Saint Mary’s. I particularly want to acknowledge the Accreditation and Compliance team’s leadership as they coordinated the collection of hundreds of pieces of information, worked with contributors, and crafted the final submission.”

Saint Mary’s HLC liaison, Dr. Thomas Bordenkircher, shared with Father Burns his view that our report was “literally outstanding. This is the best news that an institution could receive, given the pandemic and economic challenges we are all facing. Congratulations to Saint Mary’s, your leadership, and your outstanding team, faculty, and staff for an outcome that Saint Mary’s has worked hard to achieve.”