• Senior Brady Kent, a member of the QEP Committee, and junior Emma Davis, who works in the Office of the Provost, are among...
    Senior Brady Kent, a member of the QEP Committee, and junior Emma Davis, who works in the Office of the Provost, are among the students who have been helping Southwestern get ready for its October 2012 visit from representatives of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Representatives from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) will be at Southwestern Oct. 30-Nov.1 as part of the university’s 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation from SACS.

Commission representatives are coming to see whether Southwestern meets the more than 90 principles of accreditation that are required for reaffirmation. They also are coming to learn about Southwestern’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP, which is a required component of the reaffirmation process.

Southwestern has been preparing for this visit for more than two years. A major part of this preparation included the selection of a topic for the new Quality Enhancement Plan. Southwestern’s QEP topic of interdisciplinary teaching and learning was selected from 165 proposals that were submitted by faculty, staff and students.

The new QEP draws upon elements of the Paideia program that Southwestern started in 2002, but – unlike the original Paideia program – will be available to all students and will be at the center of Southwestern’s academic program. Once the new QEP is implemented, “Paideia” will refer to this new academic experience that is interdisciplinary, integrative and intentional.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, new students will be introduced to “clusters” of courses that are organized around a theme or problem. Students will choose three of these interconnected courses to meet some of their general education requirement and serve as their  “Paideia Cluster.” In their junior or senior year, students will take a fourth course that is team-taught and will be known as the “Paideia Seminar.”

Throughout this Paideia experience, students will have the opportunity to participate in civic engagement activities, intercultural experiences and undergraduate research projects that enable them to apply their liberal arts education to essential questions facing the world around them. A $100,000 fund will be available each year to help students who want to study abroad.

Courses that fall into several pilot themes will be offered in the fall of 2013. These themes are The Mediterranean World, Global Health and Representing Gender. Political science professors Alisa Gaunder and Shannon Mariotti proposed the theme related to gender, biology professors Maria Todd and Maria Cuevas proposed the theme related to global health, and Laura Hobgood-Oster, professor of religion and environmental studies, proposed the theme that focuses on the Mediterranean world.

A committee of faculty, staff and students has been meeting every other week to develop the new QEP and a director for the program is expected to be named next year.

Southwestern received a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in the spring to help implement the new QEP. Much of the money will help support the intensive faculty development activities required to launch the new program.

During their visit, representatives from SACSCOC will interview faculty, students and staff about how Southwestern selected its QEP topic, how the university plans to assess student learning that takes place under the program, and Southwestern’s ability to implement the program with the resources available.

Southwestern is expected to hear in June 2013 whether it has met the requirements for a 10-year reaccreditation from SACSCOC.