Housatonic Community College was initially accredited in 1972 by the NEASC; founded as a branch of Norwalk Community College in 1966, the College applied for candidacy for independent accreditation the following year. This document presents the case for the fourth decennial accreditation by the Commission.

The last self-study identified the deficiencies in the rented site formerly occupied by the College. This issue was resolved by the move to a permanent college campus in January 1997, to the building whose many fine attributes are celebrated throughout this self-study. The Commission also identified issues in the hiring of minorities and women among the staff and faculty, and the graduation rate of students, both of which are addressed in this self-study, in standards four and five. A five-year report, delayed for a year because of the tumult of the move to a new campus, was filed in 1998, identifying progress in these two areas.

Along with the move came several other important changes in the life of the College: the arrival of the College's third President, Dr. Janis M. Hadley, in 1996, following the 22-year tenure of its second President, Dr. Vincent Darnowski; an increase in student population of 60% in four years, from the opening of the new campus in 1997, from about 2600 students to 4250 in fall 2001; three system chancellors in four years, from 1996 to 2000; a state-wide retirement incentive program in 1997 which saw the departure of eleven long-time faculty and staff; and the arrival of new faculty and staff, nearly fifty percent of the total, in the space of the same four years. Three new deans, a new human resources/affirmative action director, two reorganizations of staff reporting, and a strategic plan all mark the last five years as a time of growth and change, some of which has been difficult on a college which for the previous twenty years had remained stable. The visit to Housatonic of President Bill Clinton on March 10, 1998 was one of the highlights of that transitional time.

The model for organizing this self-study was taken from Housatonic's 1998-99 strategic planning process, referred to extensively throughout this document. The planning process invited all who were interested to participate, with a steering committee of eight professional staff, leadership by two among these staff, and liaison with two deans. About ninety full-time staff participated in the process of setting forth areas of concern and drafting goals and objectives for the plan. One of the purposes of the self-study was to see if the College could continue this process productively and inclusively.

In a similar way, this self-study process, which was forecasted in the Strategic Plan, invited everyone from the campus to participate, and invited volunteers to lead each standard's self-study. All faculty, and 30 other full-time staff, including the President and the deans, have participated in a process that began two years before the visiting team's projected arrival. The steering committee for the self-study was assembled from the chairs of individual study groups.

Students were also solicited to be participants. Although only two participated on self-study committees, in standards six and eleven, student input was sought consistently throughout the study in various surveys and classroom questionnaires.

By Fall 2000, self-study committees were in place and actively working; most teams began writing their drafts at the end of the fall semester, and a final working draft was completed in June 2001. The self-study steering committee reconvened in

Fall 2001 to update and amend the document, as recommended in a review by commission staff during summer 2001.

Findings of this self-study

  • This self-study has been most helpful in pointing to continued efforts needed at the College in the following areas:
  • Organizational culture and governance, both of which were issues identified in the Strategic Plan of 1998-2001
  • Planning and assessment as organized and supported activities in the College
  • General coordination of activities on a campus that has undergone significant change and reorganization
  • The continuation of the good will of all to concentrate on the students, the College, and the core activities of teaching and learning
  • The continued need to address graduation rates
  • The already recognized need for more space on campus, and more staff and faculty.

Throughout the self-study, the evidence of many hands at work in the study and the writing has been preserved, in order to honor the hands and voices on the campus and their concerns. Grammatical mistakes and infelicities of wording belong to all, but the co-chairs take major responsibility and all blame.

The challenges, opportunities and strengths of this institution are apparent throughout the document. The College continues to seek understanding of itself as a place that is truly a work in progress and a gem to the region it serves. We look forward to this position of continuous improvement and the insights the visiting accreditation team will bring to the institution.

Elizabeth Doane, Professor of Mathematics
Ruth MacDonald, Academic Dean
Co-chairs of the self-study