Higher Learning Commission Annual Conference

The HLC Annual Conference in Chicago attracted more than 4,000 participants, who gathered to share best practices in learning assessment, shared governance, federal compliance, and many other matters.  One of the best-attended sessions dealt with faculty credentialing.  In this session, presenters from HLC noted that the rules on faculty credentialing—the need for a degree above the degree level at which one is teaching (with the exception of teaching in terminal degree programs), and the need for 18 graduate credits in a discipline if one is teaching outside the discipline in which one has a graduate degree—are not new.  What is new over the course of the past year is an increased focus by HLC on enforcing these rules.  One of the points made at the session is that HLC and peer reviewers would continue to allow occasional exceptions to this rule if institutions had well-developed and defensible policies with regard to competency based exceptions.

Western Academic Leadership Forum Annual Meeting

From Chicago, I traveled to Missoula, Montana, to attend the annual meeting of the Western Academic Leadership Forum, a group composed largely of chief academic officers of institutions of higher education located in western states.  At the meeting, I was part of a panel that discussed the Affordable Care Act and its impact on higher education.  My comments focused on Student Health Insurance Plans and the changes made at NMSU in order to comply with IRS rules.  Later in the conference, I participated in a panel of Provosts who discussed ways to build community among the faculty.  In my presentation, I focused on the importance of first impressions when a new faculty member joins a department.  Among the best practices in helping a new faculty member feel welcome: make sure the office is ready with all office furniture, a working telephone, and a computer in place.  If a faculty member has laboratory space, make sure the space has been renovated appropriately and that some essential laboratory equipment is available.  Finally, the department head should set time aside to counsel the new faculty member and to organize a welcome within the department.  First impressions matter, and attention to small acts of caring can make all the difference in whether a faculty member feels valued in his/her new home.

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