Northern Michigan University's College of Business has received a five-year accreditation extension from AACSB International. The distinction demonstrates an ongoing commitment to excellence in teaching, research, curriculum development and learner success.
“This is huge for the college and the university as a whole,” said College of Business Dean Carol Johnson. “Five years of reaccreditation is what we hoped to earn.”
Because the AACSB process emphasizes continuous improvement, all institutions that go through the intensive review process and site visit are advised of areas that they can work on and identify strategies to address them. Johnson said many schools struggle with setting program outcome goals related to “assurance of learning,” which means developing a definitive gauge of whether graduates are adequately equipped with the knowledge and skillset required to succeed in the professional sector.
“We have made this a priority,” she added. ‘For example, we want to know that our accounting graduates have learned the critical-thinking and communication skills so important right now, along with ethics. We want them to be able to problem-solve. It's rare that employees get a rubric on how to proceed with a task; a boss typically says ‘I want this done' and the employee is expected to figure it out. We also need to ensure we're emphasizing international studies because of the global economy.
“The world continues to change, so maintaining relevance in our curriculum is really important. That is why the College of Business does not silo itself from the rest of campus. We work cooperatively to deliver a quality education. We collaborate with a lot of different departments that offer support courses for our programs. All of this adds to improving our assurance of learning. For example, communication skills are introduced in an English class and reinforced in additional courses along a student's academic journey. We also held an internal workshop on how to improve outcomes measurement after the AACSB accreditation team visited campus.”
Johnson said other “strategy pillars” moving forward include ensuring an appropriate level and balance of staffing, and offering support for faculty scholarship and professional development activities that support teaching and learning. The college is also focused on determining its societal impact—how it is helping to fulfill the university's mission related to outreach by enhancing the region through internships and other activities. Johnson said enhancing the student experience and increasing retention initiatives are additional objectives.
“The accreditation process is a huge endeavor,” Johnson said. “The entire college was involved in this effort. It's very intensive, but ultimately a good thing because it compels you to evaluate and access your actions and outcomes—what you're doing well and what areas need improvement. I'm happy to report our enrollment numbers have held pretty steady, and our MBA degree is probably the second-largest graduate program at NMU right now because of our 4+1 program that allows students to earn a bachelor's in accounting and an MBA in only five years.”
Johnson credits the support from the NMU administration, business faculty, students, external constituents and colleagues and staff across campus with contributing to the successful reaccreditation effort.
She has instilled an annual theme to guide actions of the College of Business that they display on the walls as a reminder. At the height of the pandemic, it was “Survive, Revive and Thrive.” In 2021, it was “Connect, Support and Inspire”: connecting with students in person again, supporting the college internally and externally, and inspiring students to change the world and make a difference. She will soon unveil a new theme for the upcoming academic year.
For more on the NMU College of Business and its academic programs, visit nmu.edu/business.