UCSF Hosts WASC Site Team for Final Step in Accreditation Process

As the third step in its accreditation process, UCSF will host a team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which will review UCSF's educational effectiveness related to three themes: learning environment, student learning outcomes and diversity. In this photo, UCSF students learn about breast cancer at the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center on Oct. 5.

UCSF will take the third and final step toward its three-year quest to gain accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), a once-a-decade validation of its educational effectiveness as a graduate health sciences university.

WASC, the regional organization that is responsible for the accreditation of public and private universities and colleges in California, provides the accreditation for UCSF as a whole and for the Graduate Division in particular.  Only accredited institutions can administer federal financial aid.

UCSF began the reaffirmation and accreditation process in May 2007 that culminates this week with a visit by a WASC site team on October 13, 14 and 15. The team is lead by Edward Miller, dean of the School of Medicine, and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

Accreditation is a key measure of success and indicates that UCSF meets rigorous standards of quality and effectiveness.  In addition, the steps toward accreditation provide an opportunity for the campus community to reflect on UCSF’s accomplishments, challenges and future plans.

“UCSF’s ability to continuously strive toward its mission and goals has been affirmed and supported by the WASC reaccreditation process,” says Joseph Castro, PhD, vice provost of Student Academic Affairs and special assistant to the chancellor. “Through the process of this thorough and intensive self- and peer-review, we have come to better understand our strengths and identify specific and meaningful ways to enhance our educational effectiveness. During this review, we have strengthened our educational infrastructure in ways that will have a long-term positive impact on the students, faculty, staff, patients, and community members affiliated with UCSF.”

Castro co-chairs the WASC Accreditation Steering Committee at UCSF with Sally Marshall, PhD, vice provost of Academic Affairs. The committee, comprised of faculty, staff, a postdoctoral scholar, a student leader and administrators, submitted an Educational Effectiveness Review Report, which is posted on the UCSF WASC website.

The WASC team is visiting UCSF to discuss that report which demonstrates that UCSF has:

  • Continued to make visible and significant progress in the three areas of focus: learning environment, learning outcomes and diversity;

  • Responded to the WASC review team and recommendations in the areas of learning outcomes, diversity, technology and institutional research; and

  • Implemented numerous enhancements and improvements, both in response to and beyond the scope of the WASC review process.

The educational effectiveness review is the third of the three stage process and will provide an opportunity to UCSF students, postdocs, faculty and staff to meet with the WASC site team to discuss thoughts and issues related to UCSF’s three themes: learning environment, student learning outcomes and diversity. 

Seeking Input

Those who would like to share their thoughts with the WASC site team may do so via a WASC managed email address.

This email address is a secure location to which only authorized WASC team members have access. Students, trainees, faculty and staff may communicate directly to the team via this email address that has been created by WASC for this use only.

Enhancing the Learning Environment
One of the greatest developments in the improving the learning environment for students at UCSF is the much-anticipated opening of the Teaching and Learning Center, which is on track to open in January 2011.  The Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) will provide a technology-rich environment in support of interprofessional and transdisciplinary learning programs at UCSF. The programs will focus on training future health professionals and scientists to become leaders in delivering high quality care to underserved communities.

The second floor of the Kalmanovitz Library on the Parnassus campus will be transformed to house this new facility, enhancing library education space with a simulation and clinical skills education center; new teaching and learning space, including technology-enhanced active-learning classrooms and computing labs; and communications technology to foster interaction with health care providers, students, and support teams at other sites.

In addition to the TLC, UCSF has adopted a variety of successful educational initiatives.  Examples include the Pathways to Discovery Program, which is open to all UCSF learners, and is designed to foster motivated students in developing the knowledge, skills and experience to contribute to health beyond the care of individual patients. The five pathways are: clinical and translational research, global health, health and society, health professions education and molecular medicine.

Focusing on Student Learning Outcomes

UCSF has implemented numerous measures throughout the University to assess student learning outcomes at the program and school level. Among the highlights:

  • The School of Dentistry has a set of 17 learning outcomes that are linked to specific competency measures expected of graduates. 

  • The School of Medicine students are evaluated on meeting their benchmarks using school-generated evaluations and students’ own selected evaluations that are then reviewed with an advisor and peers.
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  • The School of Nursing has actively used student feedback from course evaluations and student surveys to improve programs.

  • The School of Pharmacy has used feedback obtained from the graduating senior survey over the past five years to bring about significant curricular changes.

  • The Graduate Division has developed a common set of student learning outcomes as well, and has adopted three more specific evaluation rubrics tailored to the standards and requirements of particular disciplines and programs.

In addition to the school and Graduate Division learning outcomes, the WASC steering committee, in association with the deans, associate deans, and the Academic Senate has agreed upon two global learning outcomes to be measured and met by every UCSF student. The expectations of “knowledge” and “professionalism” are more fully expanded upon in the Educational Effectiveness Review report.  The WASC review process has inspired improvement and growth in the use of assessment in all areas of the university.

Another key development in improving student learning outcomes is UCSF’s expansion of interprofessional activities.  From the interprofessional day held each fall to the adoption of the common academic calendar and numerous examples of interprofessional education curriculum projects, UCSF continues to enhance and improve this important aspect of student learning. 

Nurturing Diversity
As a critical measure of continued excellence, UCSF continues to place diversity at the foundation of all campus goals and initiatives. 

Recent efforts, many of which are set forth in the 10-point diversity initiative, have strengthened the campus’ effectiveness in recruiting and retaining a diverse community of students, trainees, faculty and staff.  Individual schools are committed to addressing the need for cultural competency and the Graduate Division administers several diversity programs and makes available a number of resources for underrepresented students or anyone interested in fostering diversity. 

UCSF also has a number of campuswide initiatives in place, including the “Inside UCSF Program,” the “Travelling Ambassador Program,” and the “UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.”  UCSF also continues to report issues related to diversity on its Nurturing Diversity website.

While UCSF has a long standing commitment to diversity, the campus also acknowledges that more work must be done and a new organizational structure is being implemented that will further strengthen these efforts.

To this end, UCSF is recruiting from within the University a new champion of diversity who will serve as the University’s first-ever vice chancellor of diversity and outreach. This new position will report directly to UCSF Chancellor Sue Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, and will work to develop and implement a strategic plan on diversity and outreach, focusing on overall campus climate, recruitment and retention of students, faculty and staff.

Improving Institutional Research and Enhancing Student Services
The success and commitment to ongoing excellence at UCSF will be more readily studied, understood, and reported via the improved capacity for institutional research.  The Office of Institutional Research (OIR) was formally re-established in 2009 and is actively using data from a variety of campus sources to assess and review important educational issues. Student data along with campus, faculty, staff and UC systemwide data is published and made available via the OIR.  Processes for gathering and reporting data have been streamlined and centralized, and UCSF has underscored its commitment to having data-driven planning processes. 

UCSF also continues to improve services for students. In 2009-2010, the Student Financial Aid Office introduced a completely online application process for continuing students for the first time. The Office of the Registrar, for example, launched a new website to provide information to students in a logical, easy-to-navigate format. The office also implement online grade reporting so that now 99 percent of grades are reported online, allowing students faster access to their grades.

Other improvements include making technological upgrades in classrooms, revamping the graduate student health insurance program and the expected opening of the Mission Bay Student Resource Center in early 2011. Housing the office of Student Services and the Graduate Student Association at Mission Bay, the center will provide a highly visible and accessible place that promotes student participation in diverse co-curricular programs and services.

Editor’s note: Maria Blandizzi contributed to this report.

Photo by Susan Merrell

Related Links:


UCSF WASC website

UCSF Diversity website

UCSF Prepares for Accreditation Visit by WASC Team
February 9, 2009

UCSF Submits Action Plan to Reaffirm WASC Accreditation
UCSF Today, August 27, 2007