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Former Executive Directors Blog

August 2019

On July 30, 2019, ACCET appeared before NACIQI – the National Advisory Council for Institutional Quality and Integrity – as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s (US ED) re-recognition process. The Department’s Accreditation Group presented NACIQI with a completely compliant report on our re-recognition petition. ACCET then had the opportunity to make a presentation regarding our agency’s operations and results since 2013. After a brief round of questions from NACIQI members, the advisory committee unanimously supported the recommendation that ACCET’s recognition by US ED be granted for the maximum five year period. Now, both the Accreditation Group’s recommendation and that of NACIQI will be forwarded to the Senior Department Official and the Secretary for final action.

As you know, this already difficult process was prolonged by an additional fourteen months due to events (including the latest government shutdown) that were beyond our control. We are so pleased with the result and are grateful for the outcome. Our Deputy Executive Director, Judy Hendrickson, led the petition process and is most deserving of our praise and appreciation. The entire ACCET team thanks you for your support!

Sincerely,

William V. Larkin, Ed.D.
Executive Director

March 2019

ACCET has been blessed with no professional staff turnover for five years, so it’s not surprising that some career and personal developments would eventually catch up with us and disrupt this streak.  Here are some recent staff announcements: 

Assistant Executive Director Linsay Oakden will leave the staff after more than ten years of service in mid-May to relocate in Ravenna, Italy with her husband Kenan and baby son, Ozan.  Kenan has accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Bologna and they expect to be overseas for at least two years. Linsay’s contributions to ACCET are legendary and she will be dearly missed both professionally and personally.  We wish the three of them well as they begin this new chapter in their lives.

Senior Accreditation Coordinator Megan Ackerman-Yost left the staff in late February to accept an academic planning position in the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin. This move will provide Megan with the opportunity to pursue her first academic love – science – and complete her doctorate. Megan was with ACCET for eight years and was a major staff player in many different realms.  I know you join me in thanking her for her dedicated and talented service.

We have also been informed that Accreditation Coordinator Carol Crehan will leave the staff in late April to accept a language education related position with the United Nations.  Carol’s expertise in the Intensive English area as well as her superb training/teaching skills are but of few of the qualities that we will miss as she moves on after four years and we are grateful for having her with us during that time.

So, after recovering from this news, the senior executive staff worked together to re-organize professional staff portfolios and hire talented new staff.  Major events are as follows:

Dr. Mary Clare DiGiacomo has been promoted to Assistant Executive Director effective upon Linsay’s departure.  Mary Clare’s organizational and interpersonal skills will serve us well as we look towards the future.  Her responsibilities will not be the same as Linsay’s but will encompass several key areas.

Ms. Miia Rasinen has joined the professional staff as an Accreditation Coordinator. She holds a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology from the University of West Virginia and an undergraduate degree in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame.  Her recent employment includes education/training related positions with the Electronic Transmission Association, the Truckload Carriers Association and Teach for America. 

We also will be hiring an additional Accreditation Coordinator in the coming weeks and will keep you posted once the appointment is made.

On the administrative side, Mr. Shubham Puri has joined the staff as Database Coordinator replacing Simin Xi who left the staff at the end of 2018 to accept a professional position with the United States Senate.  Shubham holds a Master’s degree in Applied Information Technology from Towson University (where he was employed part-time in the University’s Intensive English office) and an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from Panjab University in India.

ACCET has always prided itself in serving its members and although we will surely miss Linsay, Megan and Carol, we are committed to continuing such service with our new team organization and players.  Thank you for supporting us in this new chapter.

 

December 2018

In short, the annual ACCET conference in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho was spectacular – beautiful setting, great keynotes, quality breakouts, an abundance of exhibitors, and social events galore.  Sandy Lockwood, Darlene Foret, and the ACCET staff program committee led this year by Cristina Rodarte all did an outstanding job.  FIRST Institute in Illinois is congratulated for winning this year’s Tom Tillia Community Service Award and thanks to Carol Crehan for coordinating the event.  Many memories were made and friendships renewed.  A highlight was the surprise awarding of the first ACCET Lifetime Achievement Award to Sandy Lockwood.  No one is more deserving!  So, now it is on to Phoenix in November 2019.  It promises to be awesome.

We have just completed a week of ACCET Commission meetings with a significant changing of the guard and an agenda of 87 items for consideration.  The Commission welcomed three new Institutional members – Haviva Parnes (EC Boston), Megan Kobzej (New American College, Denver) and Larry Lewis (San Diego Culinary Institute) – and a new public member, Terry O’Donnell (retired Executive Director of CEA – Council of English Language Accreditation).  They quickly adjusted, were oriented and played significant roles in the recent deliberations.  Also, a new Commission Executive Committee was installed – Paul Dunlop, Chair; Yadexy Sierra, Vice Chair; Derek Kindle, Treasurer, Rick Wood, Secretary, Peggy Tiderman, Past Chair (ex officio) and Dr. Bill Larkin, ACCET Executive Director (ex officio). Despite the changes and the short preparation time between the Conference and the Commission Meeting, all ran smoothly.  Special thanks to the ACCET staff for seeing that this occurred.

ACCET staff and Commission Executive Committee members are gearing up for consideration of ACCET’s re-recognition by NACIQI in early February.  The preliminary analysis of our petition by U.S. Department of Education staff was very encouraging and we are eager for the process to be completed. We will keep you posted as the process progresses.

Washington continues to be a hotbed of activity, speculation, and unpredictability with current attention on the ACICS re-instatement, the rapid demise of ECA – Education Corporation of America, and the impact that a Democratic Party led House of Representatives may have on higher education in general and the for-profit sector in particular.  Be assured that every day is an adventure here!

It has been a most challenging year for ACCET but in conclusion, I want to emphasize that ACCET is mired in a strong and durable foundation capable of weathering daunting times. We are moving ahead with a clear vision and determination to continue to serve our members and be a leader in the accreditation community.  Your unwavering support and enthusiasm for ACCET is noted and appreciated. I thank you for this partnership and extend my best wishes for your continued success while sending sincere best wishes from the Commission and staff for an enjoyable, relaxing and productive holiday season!  

 

August 2018

As fall approaches and another traditional academic year begins (meaningful for some members and meaningless for others!), our attention also turns to the ACCET Annual Conference scheduled for the beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho resort from November 7-9, 2018 with pre-conference workshops scheduled for the two days prior. In recent years, we have been able to identify unique settings for a group our size (e.g. Hershey, PA and Pueblo, NM) and Coeur d’Alene will add to that list. A short ride from the airport in Spokane, Washington, you will find a resort and town that should be perfect and I look forward to greeting you there. One civic note: most of you will be in Idaho or en route on November 6, the date of our national mid-term elections. So, in the spirit of our democracy, I urge you to make early voting or absentee ballot arrangements, as appropriate.

The Commission has just completed a most productive meeting here in Washington, D.C. and we welcomed a guest observer from US ED as part of our re-recognition process.  Approximately 80 agenda items were addressed with Commissioners working diligently to give each item due consideration.  I thank them for their dedication and expertise. I would also like to thank the ACCET staff for the enormous preparation and post-meeting follow-up that is performed each time we gather. A fruitful one-half day Strategic Priorities session was also held and we are further developing our list of initiatives that will shortly be shared with the membership.  Additionally, the Nominating Committee had a series of meetings and the slate for new Institutional Commissioners will be announced to primary contacts sixty days prior to the Idaho Conference.

We had hoped to have had a decision regarding the future of ACICS just prior to the last Commission meeting, but US ED postponed a decision until September 4, 2018.  The ACICS issue has significant impact on ACCET operations since several institutions are maintaining dual accreditation until the future of ACICS is more defined.  Like many individuals in the for-profit and accreditation communities, we are eager to know future directions for ACICS and its member schools.

Best wishes to all and I thank you for your continued support of ACCET. I look forward to seeing many of you in Coeur d’Alene!

May 2018

The travel cycle leading up to the April 2018 Commission meeting was the most voluminous ever.  It included large teams, weather related travel delays, complicated team reports plus exhausted volunteers and ACCET staff.  Somehow, we weathered the storm and all was in place by the time the Commission gathered.  I would especially like to thank the membership for the extraordinary effort made to provide qualified volunteers to visit our numerous initial accreditation sites.  It was an exceptional team effort and exemplified ACCET’s partnership with its members.

Once gathered, the Commission faced a huge agenda.  Many Commissioners came in early to read files and attend longer than usual Financial Review Board and Completion and Placement Committee meetings.  We enlisted the assistance of several former Commissioners to serve in a pro tempore capacity; extended the Commission schedule by a day; scheduled some evening meetings; and staff organized several pre-meeting preparation documents to facilitate numerous tasks.  The Commission reached agreement on several extremely difficult accreditation decisions after hours of discussion, research and deliberations.  Everyone had tasks to perform at capacity and they did so with dedication and conscientiousness.  I thank our Commissioners and staff for an extraordinary effort.

Just days prior to the Commission meeting, Federal Judge Reggie B. Walton remanded the ACICS recognition issue back to the Secretary of Education citing the Department’s failure to review 36,000 pages of documents originally requested as part of the ACICS re-recognition process.  As a result Secretary DeVos (at least temporarily) reinstated ACICS and the clock reverted back to December 2016.  As of today, we await further clarity and decisions by the Secretary that are expected this summer.  Her initial action, however, meant that institutions who had maintained their ACICS membership while seeking accreditation from another agency, were protected from having their Title IV funds impacted if affiliation with a new agency was not completed by June 12, 2018.  This was the case for many institutions seeking ACCET accreditation but other schools who, for various legitimate reasons, decided to cease their affiliation with ACICS, are still subject to the June 12 deadline.  We have at least three such institutions in this category and will, therefore, hold a special Commission meeting (via remote means) in early June to, once again, consider their credentials before the June 12 deadline.  In some cases there are serious completion and placement challenges that some schools may not be able to successfully improve in such a short period of time.  ACCET continues to try to influence governmental decision makers that these institutions, who have done everything properly, should not be penalized but this has been a most challenging process.  We will keep you posted on developments as they occur.

I also call your attention elsewhere on the website announcing that we are seeking nominations to fill two institutional Commissioner openings  and encourage you to nominate colleagues or yourself for these hard-working positions.  Both retiring Commissioners have extensive Intensive English Program experience so nominees with similar experience will be especially welcome but the field is wide open to consider nominees with all relevant backgrounds.  Thank you for your consideration.

Best wishes for a busy, productive and enjoyable summer.  Your continued support of ACCET is deeply appreciated.

February 2018

It is an unusually busy travel season as ACCET peer review volunteers and ACCET staff traverse the country visiting schools up for initial accreditation, reaccreditation and substantive change approvals.  Many of the teams are larger than normal for some initial applicant sites while the winter weather and illnesses have all contributed to a very hectic scene.  Nevertheless, we are right on schedule.  I would especially like to thank the volunteer team evaluators who are giving their time to this effort and their supervisors who are coping back home when some key personnel are serving as ACCET peer reviewers.

The April Commission meeting also promises to be packed and we have actually extended the number of meeting days as well as enlisting the aid of some former Commissioners to serve on a pro tempore basis.  Many initial applicants are experiencing non-compliance issues with placement and, of course, this is an area where time is often necessary to correct.  For this reason, the proposal for an 18 month extension of the deadline for the accreditation of former ACICS schools is of crucial importance.  Congressional action is necessary to create this extension and the proposal is moving through as part of a Senate appropriations bill.  We are monitoring it closely and are encouraged to date but the unpredictability of the current legislative process is reason for concern.  By obtaining this extension, ACCET and the other national accreditors are merely trying to do their jobs in a conscientious and complete manner.  Most of you are aware that the majority of initial applicants for ACCET accreditation are deferred at least (if not more than) one cycle before becoming completely compliant, so what we’re experiencing here is not all that unusual.  What is unusual is a June 12, 2018 deadline for accreditation that has been imposed on former ACICS schools.

Modest enrollment rebounds among ACCET career colleges counter balanced by continued retraction at Intensive English Program schools still appears to be the theme nationwide.  We will keep you posted if we see any shifts in these trends. 

Spring is around the corner!  Hang in there!

December 2017

By all accounts, the ACCET San Antonio Annual Conference was a smashing success! A great location was augmented by outstanding breakout programs and well received plenary sessions.  When the smoke cleared, we actually surpassed our all-time attendance record by two registrants and set a revenue record as well.  Sandy Lockwood, Darlene Foret plus numerous ACCET staff are congratulated on an outstanding event that featured quality learning and great camaraderie.  So, mark your calendars now for November 7-9, 2018 in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho!

The ACCET Commission just concluded its December deliberations with an extensive and challenging agenda.  Special thanks to Karen Kershenstein, Liz Schaefer, Brenda Robati and David Vice who pitched in as pro-tem Commissioners to help us handle a workload that included our usual array of reaccreditations and substantive changes but was buttressed by the initial applicants from schools formerly affiliated with ACICS, the main campuses for which were all visited in this most recent cycle.  During this upcoming cycle, the affiliated branch campuses will be visited, a total over two cycles of 104 locations.

ACCET is not the only busy place juggling many tasks.  You’ll recall that every five years, accrediting agencies are re-recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (US ED) through a process very similar to our reaccreditation of ACCET member institutions.  This includes an appearance before NACIQI – the National Advisory Council for Institutional Quality and Integrity – which was scheduled for ACCET in May 2018.  Recently, we have been informed that due to retirements in the Accreditation Group at US ED and the shifting of workloads, our appearance and re-recognition will be delayed until December 2018. 

Finally, look for the second edition of the ACCET Newsletter to be shortly attached to our website!  It is part of our ongoing attempt to more comprehensively communicate with you on key issues, events, and happenings.  The first edition was well received and we have incorporated a number of your suggestions in this next edition.          

So, warm wishes to all of you during this Holiday Season and best wishes for an outstanding 2018.  Thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm.

August 2017

As the summer slips away, our focus changes towards fall events.  Despite the fact that virtually all of our member institutions function year-round, there’s something embedded in our psyche that makes the start of classes in fall as a special event.  Here’s hoping that’s the case in both your professional and personal lives.

Excitement is building about the Annual ACCET Conference scheduled from November 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Participant registration is building, the Exhibit Hall is almost sold out, and the program is falling in place.  This is the major opportunity for our ACCET community to gather and I know you’ll be making every effort to join us.

Here in the ACCET office, we have recently welcomed Maia Williams as a new Accreditation Coordinator and Dr. Mary Clare DiGiacomo as a Senior Accreditation Coordinator.  Maia is recent graduate of the Higher Education Administration Masters Program at the University of Pennsylvania while Mary Clare has most recently served as the Dean of General Education and Online Learning at Athens Technical College in Georgia.  They have both hit the ground running and after some additional training and observation early in this cycle, they will be doing visits later this fall.  Additionally, Roxanne Wittkamp has agreed to serve as a part-time Commission Representative.  Most recently, Roxanne served as the Academic Dean at Chicago ORT. We are pleased to have these three professionals join our team.

The ACCET Commission just concluded its August deliberations and it was a most productive week.  Recent circumstances forced two Commissioners, Patricia Stein and Nadine Baladi, to step down from their posts requiring the Commission to make appointments to complete their terms.  Accordingly, we welcomed Sophia Perkovich, Director of Cortiva Institute in Arizona and Shenaz Shafee, Academic Director of LADO in Washington DC to fill these slots.  They made significant contributions right away and have nicely blended into the Commission ranks.    In addition to accreditation decisions, the Commission made a number refinements to our completion and placement, complaints and conflict of interest/recusal policies.  The dedication of our Commissioners and the time that they devote to their tasks are exemplary. 

These next two visit cycles will be extremely eventful.  All current members scheduled for visits will receive them as planned while we also endeavor to visit for initial accreditation, the former ACICS institutions whose applications we have accepted.  This amounts to 36 main campuses and an additional 68 affiliated branch/auxiliary campuses.  We have laid out a game plan to accomplish this task and look forward to this undertaking. Simultaneously, we are preparing for ACCET’s re-recognition consideration this June by the U.S. Department of Education.  As you might imagine, we are re-defining the word “busy”!

Finally, look for the first edition of the ACCET Newsletter to be shortly attached to our website!  It is part of our ongoing attempt to more comprehensively communicate with you on key issues, events, and happenings.  Sincere thanks to all the staff who worked on this edition with special recognition to Carol Crehan, Christina D’Antoni and Jim Doran.

So, I look forward to greeting many of you in San Antonio and wish you all well as we continue our collaboration and partnership.  Thank you for all the support you have shown to ACCET, its members, staff and Commissioners.

May 2017

Welcome to spring as many schools shift to summer programs and formats.  We had an excellent April Commission meeting that included some long-range focusing and updating regarding current events here in Washington and worldwide.  We continue to see many challenges for our intensive English program schools and have experienced a modest decline in the number of branch campuses some of the bigger organizations are carrying.  Meanwhile, smaller IEPs are doing their very best to keep their heads above water.

The expected positive impact (and forecasted de-regulation) from the new administration as it relates to for-profit career colleges has not yet been realized.  The Department of Education has been slow to re-organize and numerous holdover appointees and career civil servants appear to still be marching to the same beat established during the last eight years.  Being realistic, a little over one-hundred days of a new administration does not provide enough time for “trickle down” to the agencies, but early signs for positive change have been minimal to date.

Interest in ACCET accreditation from ACICS schools seeking a new home has been significant.  We have moved very methodically on these applications and our scrutiny has been extensive.  Despite unrealistic timelines that are in government statute but, as of now, need to be followed, the Commission and staff are seeing that all steps expected of initial applicants are taken.  A number of these applying institutions are complex in size, offerings and history, hence, a pace that some might define as tedious, is necessary.  I will keep you posted on developments. Meanwhile, the court case relating to ACICS is approaching and decisions stemming from that adjudication could, once again, change the landscape of this issue.

Here is the ACCET office, we have welcomed Cristina Rodarte back to the fulltime staff after a two-year hiatus and we are fortunate to re-gain both her expertise and enthusiasm. Simin Xi’s title has been changed to Database Coordinator to better reflect her current duties and Christina D’Antoni’s title has been altered to that of Administrative Assistant and Events Coordinator to better portray her current activities. Congratulations to all!

The annual ACCET Conference is shaping up nicely and San Antonio will be a terrific site for our activities in early November.  This is an important professional development opportunity for our members, not to mention the informal learning, networking and interaction with exhibitors that occurs at our conference.  Although budgets are tight this year for many, please make every effort to be with us for this re-energizing opportunity. 

As always, best wishes to all, thank you for your support and here’s to your success!

February 2017

A belated welcome to 2017 and Greetings from Washington, DC.  Nowadays, it is almost impossible to keep track of the new daily political developments and the implications they may have for our ACCET membership.  Suffice to say at this point, there are far more questions than answers.  Education Secretary DeVos is still finding her sea legs and identifying key staff.  There is indication that some de-regulation is in the works but this is still very undefined.  In fact, my attendance at last week’s NACIQI meeting as an observer would currently point to no change in attitude or approach to the for-profit institutional accreditors.  Likewise, the court proceedings related to the ACICS dissolution decision by the Department of Education have not yielded positive signs.  For our Intensive English Program members, the initial travel ban actions by the new administration have not helped change the perception for students from many countries that the United States is no longer a welcoming place for them to study.  So, stayed tuned, as they say, and we will see what the future brings.

Meanwhile, at the ACCET office, staff are coming off the road and preparations are in gear for the April 2017 Commission meeting.  As usual, we will have a full agenda and a hectic five days of deliberations.  The approval of initial applications from former ACICS schools has been a challenge as we review their financial and other records while holding them to the ACCET standards.  By the way, we welcomed Cristina Rodarte back to the fulltime ACCET staff a couple of weeks ago and we are fortunate to have her expertise and experience.  Cristina will be working remotely from California but has already assumed a full portfolio of ACCET responsibilities.  The office in Washington, DC can facilitate any contact you might require of her. 

Preliminary plans are shaping up nicely for our next ACCET Annual Conference scheduled for November 6-8, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio, Texas.  Sandy Lockwood and her team, as well as ACCET Commissioners and Staff are eager to see that another high quality professional education opportunity is available to our membership.  So, please block out those dates now and plan to be with us in November.

As always, I am appreciative of your support and engagement.  Warm regards to all.