Greetings to all with wishes for a productive and peaceful 2016. We begin the year here at ACCET by launching this Executive Director’s update on our website as an additional manner to communicate with our members.
The year 2015 was a banner year for ACCET. As of the August 2015 Commission meeting, we welcomed 19 new member institutions while losing just a few despite these traumatic times that have impacted so many post-secondary organizations. Our annual conference in Hershey was viewed by most as the “best ever” with great attendance, programs, interaction with ACCET staff and Commissioners, vendors and keynote speakers. The opportunity to hear Milton Hershey School President Pete Gurt and to learn about the unparalleled act of philanthropy by Katherine and Milton Hershey over a decade ago was clearly a highlight. The year also saw expanded accreditation workshop sites and an increase of Team Evaluator workshops. Our ACCET standards were upgraded as part of an extensive review that we undertake every five years and we continued to accomplish activities outlined in our Strategic Priorities document to such a degree that the Commission will develop a new series of tasks at the upcoming April 2016 meeting. James Doran, Carol Crehan, Simin Xi and Christina D’Antoni all joined the staff and have been great additions. We face 2016 with confidence and vigor.
As approved by the Commission Executive Committee at its December 2015 meeting, the 2016 ACCET budget contains no increases in either sustaining fees or visit fees for our members. This may not be possible in future years, but the staff believes we can make ends meet this coming year, especially since our members’ budgets are tighter than ever. I am also pleased to announce that former ACCET staff member, Donna Hutchinson, will return to the staff fulltime and, among other duties, will lead the Program Approval process as the result of John Gregg’s retirement. Donna brings great expertise and experience to this role that demands excellent and timely customer service.
Finally, on occasion, I will use this space as a “gentle pulpit” to challenge and encourage our membership. My thoughts and concerns recently have centered around the safety and comfort of the thousands of students at ACCET schools who practice Islam. The current environment demands extra efforts on our part to see that our Muslim students remain welcome participants in our organizations and that our extra outreach assures that they feel safe in both their academic and residential settings. From conversations with some of you, I know that this outreach is already occurring but it, unfortunately, will mean an ongoing initiative to offset stereotypes perpetuated by some politicians and some media outlets. I realize that I am largely “speaking to the choir” but as a former college president and dean of students, I know firsthand how fragile such relationships are in times of considerable stress and questioning. Thank you for considering my comments.
I continue to take great pride in ACCET and in our membership who have set and kept high standards over the years. I thank you for your continued engagement and hope that 2016 is a positive and productive year for all of us.