40th Anniversary in Focus: Separate accreditation helps define campus’ future

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: February 08, 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.

No balloons or Champagne were on hand, but the occasion was momentous nonetheless.

On June 27, 2011, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) awarded separate accreditation to USF Sarasota-Manatee.

Lacking the bang of a groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting, receiving separate accreditation carried the same weight nonetheless. It meant the campus was free to chart its own path while remaining a part of the USF System. Previously, USFSM was accredited through its relationship with USF Tampa.

“This now means that we will be able to design new programs, grant our own degrees, make faculty decisions, award diplomas, and have all advising, admissions and financial decisions here instead of in Tampa,” then-Regional Chancellor Dr. Arthur Guilford said at the time. “It is a lengthy, but necessary and worthwhile process and I am so proud of our faculty, students, staff, community and USF System President Dr. (Judy) Genshaft for their incredible support.”

The following year, the campus admitted sophomores and in 2013 it enrolled freshmen to transform it into a four-year institution. This wouldn’t have happened without the separate accreditation, which took more than a year to achieve.

Institutions seeking accreditation undergo an intensive and lengthy self-review process in which they assess how well they’re meeting their educational missions, goals and expected outcomes, and making improvements as needed. A committee of experts from across the country then visits and evaluates the institution.

SACS is a private, non-governmental organization that accredits educational institutions in the southern United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia).

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS-COC) is recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Achieving separate accreditation was a testament to the hard work by USFSM faculty and staff, Dr. Guilford said. It also meant that USFSM had grown up.

USF System President Dr. Judy Genshaft agreed:

“This is a terrific statement of quality for USF Sarasota-Manatee and of maturity for the whole USF System,” she said at the time. “Congratulations to the entire team!”

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