Cornell begins 2021 reaccreditation process

Cornell’s journey to reaccreditation in 2021 has begun, with the formation of a steering committee comprising faculty members, administrators and students.

The committee is organizing working groups and will design and coordinate a self-study on how the university is meeting accreditation standards set by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, one of six regional accrediting entities in the United States.

Once the design of the study is approved by Middle States, the accreditation process requires the self-study to be submitted with documentation, followed by a site visit, said Marin Clarkberg, associate vice provost of institutional research and planning and Cornell’s accreditation liaison officer.

Every 10 years, accreditation review covers the breadth of the university, including Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and programs of instruction around the world. Accreditation is voluntary but is a requirement for an institution’s students to be eligible for federal funds such as financial aid grants and loans.

The design for the self-study will be sent to Middle States for approval this spring. Cornell’s completed self-study documentation is due next spring, and an evaluation team will visit in the fall of 2020.

“As we go forward, the self-study will have input and participation from the broader campus community,” said Michael Fontaine, associate vice provost of undergraduate education and professor of classics, who co-chairs the steering committee with Clarkberg.

There are seven standards for accreditation: Mission and Goals; Ethics and Integrity; Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience; Support of the Student Experience; Educational Effectiveness Assessment; Planning, Resources and Institutional Improvement; and Governance, Leadership and Administration.

Each standard has its own working group, chaired by a faculty member on the committee.

“This is a change from 2011, when we were last accredited; at that time there were 14 standards,” Clarkberg said. “Middle States has conscientiously tried to reduce the burden on institutions by taking a more holistic approach.”

The Accreditation Steering Committee has met to discuss the process and logistical support for each working group, and suggest prospective working group members to recruit for the effort.

Committee members include Lisa Nishii, vice provost of undergraduate education; Katherine Edmondson, assistant dean for students and instruction in the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Alan Mathios, professor of policy analysis and management and former dean of the College of Human Ecology (2007-18), who also serves as a Middle States commissioner.

The faculty members on the committee, with the working groups they are chairing, are:

  • Durba Ghosh, professor of history; Educational Effectiveness Assessment Working Group. 
  • Louis Hyman, associate professor of labor relations, law and history; Ethics and Integrity Working Group.
  • Caroline Levine, professor of English; Mission and Goals Working Group.
  • Bruce Lewenstein, professor of communication and of science and technology studies; Governance, Leadership and Administration Working Group.
  • Sean Nicholson, professor of policy analysis and management; Planning, Resources and Institutional Improvement Working Group.
  • Scott Peters, professor of development sociology; Design and Delivery of the Student Learning Experience Working Group.
  • Stephan Schmidt, associate professor of city and regional planning; Support of the Student Experience Working Group.

Two students also will serve on the committee – Nick Matolka ’21, a biological sciences major who represents the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Student Assembly; and a graduate student to be named.

Comments and questions on accreditation can be sent to

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John Carberry