DATE For immediate release: April 6, 2023
Contact: Dr. Kristine Sudbeck, firstname.lastname@example.org
Four Members from NICC Trained as HLC Peer Reviewers
MACY, NE-- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) held its annual conference in Chicago, Illinois on March 25-28, 2023. This year, four members from Nebraska Indian Community College (NICC) were in attendance in a different role, as members of HLC’s Peer Corps.
Members of the Peer Corps “may conduct multiple types of reviews, ranging from evaluations that involve teams of reviewers visiting the institution in person to online panels evaluating institutional reports or other materials” (HLC, 2023). The primary responsibilities of HLC Peer Reviewers are:
- “Public Certification of Institutional Quality- Within the context and mission of the institution, peer reviewers affirm its fulfillment of the Criteria for Accreditation and other HLC requirements.
- Institutional Improvement- Within the context and mission of the institution, peer reviewers offer consultative information intended to contribute to the quality of its academic offerings and to its improvement.”
Dr. Kristine Sudbeck (Dean of Academic Affairs/CAO/ALO) completed the training to join the HLC Peer Corps in May 2022 in St. Charles, Illinois. During this training, 143 people were accepted to participate and only three individuals (2%) were members of tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).
Later in 2022, three more team members from NICC joined the HLC Peer Corps: Dr. Michael Oltrogge (President/CEO), Parisa Baker (Director of the Office of Institutional Research, Planning, and Effectiveness), and Chrissy Lesher (Instructional Designer). This was during a targeted effort by HLC to train more TCU representatives. The initial training took place in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in October 2022. This was followed up by two more virtual training sessions, in which 17 more TCU members completed the training and officially joined HLC’s Peer Corps.
NICC’s newly trained Peer Reviewers find value in having more TCU representation on the HLC Peer Corps. Chrissy Lesher shared, "I appreciate HLC's recognizing their own equity gap and making a good effort to increase TCU representation on their Peer Corp. This continued effort to increase TCU representation should benefit TCUs both during a review or in preparations for an HLC review." Dr. Michael Oltrogge reflected on how this effort is “a huge step towards equality. Tribal Colleges operate differently than other institutions in our current systems and face incredible challenges, including serving the lowest income level areas in the country while maintaining a base in their communities and their unique cultures while being chronically underfunded. With that being said, the increased representation on the HLC Peer Corps, not only allows for the TCU peer reviewers to be able educate their teams when on a visit, but to also offer education to the Peer Corps as a whole.” There is certainly an added benefit in the reciprocity of knowledge sharing as well, whereby we get the opportunity to suggest tools/resources to as well as learn from other sister TCUs.
This year, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. AIHEC was established with the first 6 American Indian tribally controlled colleges, and now membership has grown to 37 TCUs across the United States. Of these 37 tribal colleges and universities, 26 institutions (70%) are accredited through HLC.
Total # HLC Peer Corps
Total # TCU Representatives in HLC Peer Corps
Dr. Koreen Ressler, VP of Operations, Sitting Bull College, who was honored at the 2023 HLC Peer Corps Luncheon with an Outstanding Service Award, has been instrumental in helping spearhead the efforts to increase Tribal College and University representation in the Peer Review Corp. Parisa Baker admires this work stating, “As a result of her advocacy efforts, HLC has experienced a 124% rate of change in TCU representation within its Peer Review Corp from 2021 to 2022.” NICC is humbled to have 4 employees amongst the 38 current TCU Peer Review Corps individuals, and we look forward to watching that number and the benefit to all our sister institutions flourish in the future.
For more information on eligibility requirements and the application process to join HLC Peer Corps, click here. Applications for peer reviewers are tentatively planned to open back up again next spring.