posted on 1/25/09
Business Administration Department at SJC Receives Specialized Accreditation from IACBE
Posted: January 25, 2008
Students studying accounting and business administration at Saint Joseph's College have long valued the preparation they receive for their careers. They now have one more feather for their graduation mortarboards: they will receive their degrees from a nationally-accredited program.
The Board of Commissioners of the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE) formally granted specialized accreditation to SJC this winter, capping a five-year process for one of the largest academic divisions at the College.
"The nature of long-term goals is that it is sometimes hard to see exactly how things will play out," said Linda McFarland, Associate Professor of Management and Marketing. "But if the goal is right, you push on, accomplish tasks, and make changes. That's how organizations today progress and survive."
Only just over one-fourth of the undergraduate business programs in the United States have received specialized accreditation. Many of those consist of the larger research universities with nationally-known business schools.
Such accreditation commonly involves an extended self-study of program strengths and weaknesses, assessment of student learning, and measurement of program benchmarks against other institutions. An IACBE evaluation team visited the SJC campus for two days in the fall of 2007 to review the self-study.
Saint Joseph's College's business programs were formally commended for "integration of outcomes assessment and strategic planning," two processes that are naturally interconnected but, until now, were treated as separate tasks by most self-studies.
Michael Oakes, Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, pointed out that the road to accreditation brought important changes to the curriculum. "The process forced us to look outside ourselves much more than had been done in previous years."
"We discovered, for example, that we needed more coverage in business law, quantitative skills, and information systems," he continued. "We also evaluated faculty strengths, student profiles, and employer interests and refocused on providing students with a valuable set of cross-functional business skills."
One highlight of program changes is a unique junior-year integrative course called "The Crucible." In small teams, accounting and business students compete against other teams in a sophisticated, on-line, competitive business market.
"The aim is to reinforce and put into practice the various functional skills students have studied in their principle courses," Oakes explained. "As the name implies, it is sometimes a stressful test for students. It is also immediately revealing - to them and to us faculty members - of what they have learned and what they can do." Oakes and Terra Maienbrook, Associate Professor of Accounting, will present an overview of "The Crucible" at the IACBE national conference in April.
Accreditation also locks in a continuous quality improvement process. "We have an excellent faculty and curriculum. But we didn't conclude we were perfect," Oakes said. "It would be hard not to be suspicious of any assessment that concluded that nothing needed improvement."
Oakes continued, "Accreditation means we are now formally accountable to addressing weaknesses and making real changes to constantly enhance student learning."
Saint Joseph's College, named a "character-building college" by the Templeton Foundation and a "best Midwestern college" by the Princeton Review, is a four-year, Catholic, liberal arts college offering 74 major, minor, and pre-professional programs. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana, approximately 90 minutes from both Chicago and Indianapolis, on a park-like campus of 180 acres and has an enrollment of over 1,000 students.