Newly Accredited: Governors State University on Earning AACSB Accreditation
Interim Dean Jun Zhao shares insights on the accreditation experience at Governors State University's College of Business.
In this blog series, AACSB is spotlighting business schools around the globe that have recently earned AACSB Accreditation. We ask the business school deans about their journey to accreditation and what the new achievement means to them. In this interview, Interim Dean Jun Zhao shares insights on the accreditation experience at Governors State University’s College of Business.
- Why was it important for your school to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation?
- What did you learn about your school through your accreditation journey?
- What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the accreditation process?
- How have your business programs changed as a result of achieving AACSB Accreditation?
- What advice would you give to another school approaching the accreditation process?
It was important for our college to undergo the rigorous process of earning AACSB Accreditation because AACSB Accreditation represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide. The accreditation process is a continuous improvement journey, which will help us strengthen our curricula, develop our faculty, improve our instruction and program assessment, and as a whole help us better serve our students and other stakeholders. The globally recognized accreditation will also help us continue our recruitment of high-quality students and faculty as well as enhance our students’ marketability.
We learned that when we set goals that unite and motivate our faculty and staff, and create an environment that encourages and rewards good performance, we can achieve anything we set our hearts on. When we started the AACSB Accreditation process in 2008, many people thought it was a goal that was out of our reach, as we did not fit the traditional “profile” of an AACSB-accredited school—we are primarily a teaching-oriented school, with high teaching loads and service expectations for our faculty, which makes it difficult to meet and maintain the faculty scholarship standard. However, everyone understood why it was important for us to achieve this accreditation, and the shared vision united and motivated faculty and staff toward the goal. Under the transformational leadership of our former dean, Ellen Foster Curtis, we started the journey that transformed our college throughout the process.
The most challenging part of the accreditation process was maintaining faculty sufficiency while balancing the demands for teaching, research, and service. Governors State University is a regional public university with limited resources. Faculty teaching load is high for AACSB standards, and there’s high expectations for faculty services. It is not easy to balance the requirement of teaching and service while also maintaining a high level of scholarly productivity. To address these potential issues, we developed an AQ/PQ guideline based on the 2003 standards and revised the retention and promotion criteria, ensuring that these two standards were in alignment with each other. We gave course releases to faculty who maintain their scholarship productivity and created opportunities for more faculty members to share their research interests as well as collaborate on scholarly activities. We also established college awards to reward outstanding performances in teaching, research, and service. In the end, we were able to increase our scholarship productivity while meeting high teaching load and service expectations.
The most rewarding part of the accreditation process was that through it we became a much stronger and more advantageous college to all of our students, internal stakeholders, and business partners. The continuous improvement process not only resulted in much stronger academic programs that provide the knowledge and skill sets our students need to compete in the marketplace but also help us better position our college to serve our external stakeholders such as potential employers, corporate partners, and the general community in the region.
The accreditation process was a transformational journey that resulted in significant culture change in the college. Not only do we have a much stronger commitment to faculty scholarship, but we also institutionalized a culture of assurance of learning (AoL) and continuous improvement. Establishing an AoL culture was one of the most challenging parts of the process. Today in our college, AoL is no longer just the responsibility of committee co-chairs. Rather, every faculty member has a role to play in this important task. Emphasis on AoL also helps us strengthen our curriculum design, as the knowledge and skill gaps identified in the AoL process are routinely addressed by curriculum and program revision to ensure that we have a complete loop of assurance of learning.
The advice I would like to give to another school approaching the accreditation process, especially regional schools similar to Governors State University, is to really understand your mission and align your strategic plan with the mission. It’s also important to secure university support and commitment. It’s equally important to articulate the vision and ensure everyone in the college is on board. Having faculty champions who share the vision and know how to motivate their peers to lead specific projects and tasks is critical. Also key is the role played by staff in the college. They played a pivotal role in not only supporting faculty but also in maintaining the high output of work and production.
In sum, it is important that everyone knows the end goal and understands the value and expectation of accreditation. Once achieved, the work to maintain accreditation continues, and it is key that all members—executive team, faculty, and staff—are vested in the success of accreditation attainment.
Jun Zhao is interim dean and a professor of management in the College of Business at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois.