Western Colleges Commission Gives UCSF High Marks for Collaboration and Diversity

By Kevin Eisenmann

The UCSF Teaching and Learning Center fosters interprofessional learning and offers telemedicine and simulation-based training in a 22,000-square-foot facility that includes 10 full body mannequin simulators. Upon announcing UCSF’s reaccreditation, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges cited the center as proof of the University’s commitment to increasing the quality of its learning environments.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has reaffirmed UCSF’s accreditation across all four schools and the Graduate Division, citing the commission’s confidence in UCSF’s capacity to continue achieving its goals for student success into the future.

UCSF earned the maximum period of time – 10 years – until its next review by WASC’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. Accreditation by the nonprofit association reflects UCSF’s rigorous standards of quality, capacity and effectiveness in its mission, including a special focus on enhancing diversity initiatives, improving education facilities and fostering collaborative education.

“This validates UCSF's efforts to make each of its schools a top leader in training the next generation of health care professionals,” said UCSF Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH. “I was particularly pleased that the commission noted the galvanizing effect of our new Teaching and Learning Center on helping UCSF become the best place for  clinical teams to learn together.”

The technology-rich Teaching and Learning Center – which  opened in February as host to a state-of-the-art clinical skills simulation lab – was cited by the WASC commission as proof of UCSF’s commitment to increasing the quality of its interdisciplinary learning environments.

The WASC commission also praised the University for campuswide collaboration, citing the learning center and grant programs that require integrated efforts across UCSF’s four professional schools – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy. Collaboration was especially evident, according to the report, throughout the self-evaluation process led by the WASC Steering Committee and co-chaired by Joseph Castro, PhD, Vice Chancellor – Student Academic Affairs and Sally Marshall, PhD, vice provost of Academic Affairs.

“As they looked at UCSF, they didn’t see four separate professional schools and a graduate division,” Castro said. “They found one exceptionally strong health sciences campus that provides a quality education.

Commitment to Diversity Noted

The commission also cited the University’s “visible commitment to diversity,” as reflected in its highly diverse student body, faculty and staff. The group noted that some aspects of that commitment warrant more focused attention, including clarification of roles of key diversity leaders, mentoring of under-represented faculty and staff in critical career pathways, and innovative “pipeline” strategies to motivate young people from underserved populations to study science and health professions.

Since the commission’s visit, UCSF has appointed Renee Navarro, MD, PharmD, as vice chancellor of Diversity and Outreach, to consolidate the campus’ multiple diversity efforts, a change the commission noted as a promising way to unite disparate efforts and build on them.

“UCSF has a longstanding commitment to diversity and its School of Medicine has been designated by Hispanic Business as the best school in the country for diversity,” Navarro said. “If you want to be the best you have to be inclusive of all groups and provide them with the supportive climate and culturally competent curriculum they need to thrive.”

Other areas the commission cited for greater attention going forward are: building on centralized research functions to provide analysis of and access to program review data; using data to consistently demonstrate and improve learning outcomes; and enhancing information technology to better serve academic and clinical learning across the University.

One of the first of its kind in the nation, the Teaching and Learning Center aims to promote interprofessional education and encourages innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Opened this year, the state-of-the-art facility reflects UCSF's ongoing commitment to invest in the tools and technology necessary to offer smart and sophisticated learning environments.

Student Retention Rates High

Last accredited by WASC in 2000, UCSF initiated the new accreditation process in early 2006. Then-Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, and Eugene Washington, MD, executive vice chancellor and provost, appointed the WASC Accreditation Steering Committee to draft the UCSF proposal, get broad institutional support and help guide the process. WASC accreditation is crucial because it enables students to receive federal financial aid and have confidence that their coursework will be accepted elsewhere should they transfer.

The WASC commission also noted, however, that UCSF has little trouble with students transferring out: The University’s retention rates are among the highest in the nation, ranging from 93 percent to 98 percent for the four professional schools. Of those students who obtain degrees, nearly 100 percent achieve passing rates on nationally normed licensure exams.

“We go to school in an environment that if you want to get involved in something, it’s easy to find multiple people that will help you along the way and really support your success,” said Alfredo Mireles, a student in the School of Nursing and student representative to the UC Board of Regents for 2011-2012. “If you stick your neck out and say you want to do something that’s different from everyone else, there's a culture of innovation and support in allowing students to pursue their own interests.”

UCSF was notified by letter on March 7 of the accreditation decision, which is the culmination of a three-year review process that included a comprehensive institutional self-evaluation led by the WASC Steering Committee (comprised of UCSF faculty, staff, and students), an three-day campus visit in October by a WASC evaluation team and, finally, consideration by the commission at its meeting in San Francisco in February.

UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Interview Opportunities

  • Joseph Castro, PhD, associate vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs
  • Renee Navarro, MD, PharmD, vice chancellor of Diversity and Outreach
  • Select students who have agreed to be interviewed

Photo by Susan Merrell

Video by the University of California, Office of the President