WASC Senior College and University Commission Reaffirms Accreditation through 2030

March 8, 2021

The Pardee RAND Graduate School (then RAND Graduate Institute) received its first accreditation from the Western Associate of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 1975 and it has been reaccredited continuously since then. Pardee RAND received its latest reaffirmation of accreditation for a period of ten years from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) on March 3, 2021.

“The reaffirmation process could not have come at a better time,” noted Dean Susan Marquis. “Arriving parallel to the completion of the program redesign, the process allowed us to catalog our programmatic changes and gather into one place our vision for the school moving forward. It also forced us to firmly identify areas where we will have to be especially careful moving forward and begin to select new assessment mechanisms to ensure that the redesigned program is meeting our goals.”

In 2017, WSCUC selected Pardee RAND to participate in the newly created Thematic Pathway for Reaffirmation (TPR). The TPR process allows institutions to participate in a more streamlined process to reaffirm accreditation, focusing on self-selected themes while continuing to demonstrate compliance with WSCUC standards and federal requirements. WSCUC indicated that Pardee RAND was selected for this process because of our healthy fiscal condition, strong student achievement indicators, and sustained quality performance.

“The reaccreditation process allowed us to catalog our programmatic changes and gather into one place our vision for the school moving forward.”

—Dean Susan Marquis

Associate Dean Rachel Swanger said of the TPR, “We found this process beneficial. It allowed us to focus on key elements of the redesign where we had made the biggest changes to the program, ensuring that we produced a written document identifying new program goals, the thinking behind our program changes, and the assessment mechanisms we have identified to meet those goals.”

Pardee RAND began the process in 2018 by submitting a Proposal of Themes. Our themes focused on three main issue areas revolving around our redesigned program:

  1. Building an Integrated and Interdisciplinary Learning Environment
  2. Expanding Experiential Learning
  3. Assessing Students’ Core Competencies

In 2019 and 2020, a core team of students and staff gathered data and wrote Pardee RAND’s Institutional Report, which was submitted to WSCUC in August 2020. The team included Swanger, Senior Social and Behavioral Scientist Sandy Berry, Adjunct Economist Shanthi Nataraj, Program and Compliance Analyst Amy Nabel, and students Hamad Al Ibrahim (cohort '18), Luke Irwin ('16), and Karishma Patel ('17).

“The students were invaluable resources,” Nabel said, “collecting data and writing the thematic portion of the report.”

Creating the Institutional Report was truly a school-wide effort; staff, faculty, and students all gave input and insights, from basic information to school history, as well as commentary on areas for growth.

Following the submission of the Institutional Report, Pardee RAND participated in a series of virtual meetings with the WSCUC Team in late October 2020 — an unusual, pandemic-necessitated version of a site visit. The Team met with more than 50 individuals, including representatives from faculty, students, school staff, deans, and the Board of Governors. The sessions covered a wide range of topics including the three TPR themes, the academic redesign, student support services, diversity initiatives, and the school’s new cross-cutting threads. Team members were engaged throughout the virtual visit, listening deeply and asking thoughtful questions.

The WSCUC Team’s subsequent Team Report stated that Pardee RAND was in compliance with WSCUC standards and the federal requirements. (The Team’s commendations and recommendations are below.) In mid February, the Commission met — again, virtually — with Marquis and Swanger to ask them questions about issues raised in the Institutional Report, Team Report on the visit, and the Institutional Response to the Team Report. They awarded Pardee RAND’s Reaffirmation of Accreditation on March 3 and provided them with the official Team Report.

“While not surprised, we are gratified by the strong assessment of our program reflected in the reaffirmation report,” Swanger said.

Marquis added, “As I prepare to step down from my position as Dean, I am pleased to know that Pardee RAND is stronger than ever, and in terrific hands.”

—Amy Nabel and Monica Hertzman