Texas Woman's University's business programs were recently awarded accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
"It means a lot for our students because it helps them when they go to get a job to come from an accredited school," said Paula Ann Hughes, director of the School of Management. "And it helps them continue on for graduate school."
The School of Management, which houses the business programs, has about 1,800 students.
Earning the accreditation was a process of measuring the effectiveness of the program, then improving it, and it was a huge team effort by the students, faculty, staff and outside stakeholders, Hughes said.
"It's a challenge to measure learning," she said.
Part of the process was having students answer questions in the last course before they graduate, assessing whether they were able to apply what they'd learned.
Steve Parscale, director of accreditation at the council, said earning accreditation can be a lengthy process that lasts two to three years.
TWU started working hard on this about three years ago, Hughes said. "But we've had our eye on the ball for 10 years," she said.
The process starts with a school being assigned a mentor, who helps the school increase and improve its assessment of students, as well as improve the curriculum, Parscale said.
Once the school meets the standards and criteria, a team of three experts visits the school to evaluate it and reports back to the board of commissioners.
Parscale said the council reviews an average of 50 schools a year for accreditation or re-accreditation, and of those, 47 on average are accredited. The accreditation lasts for 10 years.
Hughes said it is good to have an external group come and evaluate the quality of the program.
"The whole idea is to inspire you to continue to improve," she said.
The Certificate of Initial Accreditation will be presented at the accreditation council's conference in Maryland in June.
Parscale said there are a lot of benefits to being accredited - primarily for students because professionals in their major field have assessed the program, but for faculty and other stakeholders as well.
TWU is working toward re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for 2013, and having more accredited programs helps because regional evaluators don't look into them as hard those that aren't accredited, Parscale said.
"It's a really outstanding process to look at what you're doing and how you're doing, and look at how you can do it better," he said.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .