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GPI: Mark Nicholas- Assistant Vice President for Assessment, Accreditation, and Strategic Planning

Courtesy of Springfield College

By Naidelly Coelho

Staff Writer

What is your educational and career history prior to working at FSU?

I have a Ph.D. in educational studies from the University of Cincinnati and I have worked with institutional effectiveness or the assessment of student learning. I worked at the University of Cincinnati at the provost office while I was getting my Ph.D. So I was exposed to stuff at the national level on what was called at that point the movement for accountability in higher education. How do we demonstrate the value that institutions add to students and how do we know we are keeping our promise that students will have or know or be able to do things that we said? By the time they reach the end of that process of graduation, it takes its form in multiple ways of either direct assessments that we can do - assessment of gen ed, generic learning objectives like critical thinking, or written communication or diversity, civic engagement … and indirect methods like surveys, focus groups and things like that. … So, then I worked at Oklahoma State University for a couple of years doing that together with testing. And then I came to Framingham State.

Can you tell me about the NECHE accreditation?

NECHE is one of many institutional accreditors. In fact, all of the New England universities and colleges are accredited through NECHE. Accreditation has two roles: one is to ensure accountability - that institutions are fulfilling the promise of a good-quality higher education. And the other is improvement, a paradigm. How do we use information that we have about different metrics around the University? It covers the academic programs of life, our institutional resources, faculty and staff members, the kind of professional development they're engaged in, questions of sufficiency - in terms of the resources that we offer our students and ourselves. … Every institution is measured by its own mission statement in light of those standards. So the institution derives its mission out of its own purpose and its own constituents. … So, this accreditation framework allows us to be accountable to our stakeholders, like our students, our parents, the government, the state government, the federal government, people who are interested in providing financial aid to our students, because I think one of the key reasons why accreditation exists is because the federal government hands out so many trillion dollars.

Do you have any specific goals you want to achieve in your career?

I think I am definitely an achiever by nature. I'm always wanting to explore new things. So I edit the journal in my field - The Journal of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness. I curate a lot of the great work that's done in my field and as the editor, I get to read a lot of the great work that is being done at universities around the country and sometimes around the world. … For me personally, I don't know, maybe I sometimes think I may make a good college president. So I have been spending the last two years examining my own goals and trying to think what it takes and what I need to build from now until then, to be a college president. There are multiple pathways to the presidency and I have to figure out what that pathway might be for me. How do I position myself over the next few years to be able to do that in a meaningful way? So I sit on the board of several organizations like the New England Assessment Network. I have that kind of visibility at the regional and the national level. … I think some of the work that we've done in Framingham with regard to the assessment of student learning has become a model for many people around the country and the state. Our program is aspirational to many people. … So I get to speak sometimes about how we did what we did, and talk about it at national and regional levels.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your work?

I love playing tennis. If I'm not playing it, I'm watching it - especially the Grand Slams. I've been to the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, New York. My goal is to go to all the other three Grand Slams. I want to be at the French Open, Wimbledon and the Australian.

What advice you have for students?

I would say take every opportunity that you have and don't underestimate yourself or short sell yourself. When you see an opportunity that you think is bigger than you, go for it. Because very often you'll find that the race doesn't go to the strongest and the swiftest, but the one who perseveres. And so even if you feel that you're not the strongest or the swiftest, if you persevere, you will reach farther than those who are stronger and swifter.



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