40th Anniversary in Focus: Accreditations validate education, business colleges

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 10, 2016

Editor’s note: The story here is part of a series of 40 stories commemorating USF Sarasota-Manatee’s 40th anniversary this academic year. For more about USFSM’s history, please visit usfsm.edu/anniversary.

Not long after USF Sarasota-Manatee secured separate accreditation in 2011, USFSM’s colleges of business and education received separate, specialized accreditations as well.

USFSM’s accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges helped establish an identity as the campus looked to develop academic programs more attuned to the Sarasota-Manatee community.

In a similar spirit, USFSM’s College of Business (COB) pursued accreditation apart from other regional business programs. As it turned out, the college’s “aim-for-the-stars” approach hit its target.

In March 2014, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the hallmark of excellence in business education, awarded separate accreditation to USFSM’s College of Business. AACSB accreditation is earned by less than 10 percent of the world’s business programs.

“In order to achieve AACSB accreditation, our college has to meet exacting standards and strive for continuous improvement. All of this is an effort to provide our students with the highest quality education possible,” said College of Business Dean Dr. James Curran.

The COB accreditation followed an exhaustive review process that at one point saw business professionals from three universities visiting USFSM to pore over its business programs.

Similarly, the College of Education underwent a thorough vetting as it pursued accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education (NCATE), the nation’s foremost accrediting organization for teacher education.

That review included site visits and a thorough evaluation of all College of Education programs, faculty and educator candidates. During the six-year process, NCATE merged with another accrediting agency to form the Council for Accreditation for Educator Preparation (CAEP).

This newly combined organization conferred specialized accreditation on the College of Education last May. Campus leaders and faculty were thrilled by the announcement.

“This means that the College of Education has been scrutinized by peers in the field of education and that our College of Education has essentially been deemed world class,” said Dr. Terry Osborn, regional vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

Specialized accreditation signifies that those programs are on par with top collegiate programs throughout the world, USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Sandra Stone said. Practically speaking, the college received a “seal of approval” to signify its place among the elite schools.

In addition to the CAEP and AACSB’s accreditation, the College of Business was permitted through the AACSB to create a local chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma (BGS), the honor society for elite business students. Thirteen USFSM students were inducted into BGS during a ceremony last spring.

According to Dr. Curran, BGS membership can also serve as a career-booster.

“Only the top 10 percent of undergrads and the top 20 percent of graduate students are invited to join Beta Gamma Sigma,” he said. “So membership in Beta Gamma Sigma demonstrates that our students have excelled in their business studies. Some employers will recognize membership in Beta Gamma Sigma as evidence of a potentially valuable employee.”

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