We received some very exciting news last week: the VCSU athletic training program was granted five-year initial accreditation! We are very proud of our faculty, students, and the partners who provide our athletic training students with quality practical experiences. As we celebrate this significant accomplishment, I thought it might be helpful to pause and consider why this is important and what is involved in earning and maintaining accreditation.
At its core, accreditation is an external peer review process designed to ensure quality. Accreditation occurs at both the institutional level and the program level. It is a stamp of approval indicating that the program or institution is meeting industry/professional standards. In this case, the athletic training program was reviewed and granted that highly coveted stamp of approval by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).
Accreditation is particularly important for students as it signals to them that they are receiving a quality education—and that quality is recognized by other colleges (imperative for advanced study) as well as employers and potential employers. According to CAATE, accreditation also allows for the following:
- VCSU students are eligible to sit for the Board of Certification (BOC) exam. Students must pass the BOC exam in order to practice as an athletic trainer.
- VCSU students are eligible to participate in state, district, and national level leadership and scholarship opportunities.
- VCSU students can participate at the district and national level for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Student Quiz Bowl. The top two teams in North Dakota compete at the district level, the top team at the district level competes at nationals. This year VCSU had five teams compete at the state level. One of our senior teams took second place but was ineligible to compete at districts because we had not yet been granted accreditation. No more!
A lot of work goes into earning and maintaining accreditation. For the VCSU athletic training program, the accreditation process started before our first class was admitted in the fall of 2012. While we were teaching and working with our rapidly growing program, faculty were simultaneously immersed in completing a three-year self-study which involved documenting evidence of meeting and exceeding compliance on over 100 standards!
The self-study was followed by a site visit by the external reviewers this past February. Of the 109 standards, we had to make modifications for only two standards! Impressive. Those improvements were submitted in March and in April the CAATE Board approved and awarded VCSU initial five-year accreditation. This is especially significant as it is common practice to initially be granted three-year accreditation. The five-year status is the longest initial accreditation period awarded.
During this next five-year period, we will continue to focus on excellent teaching and learning in alignment with the CAATE standards. All accredited institutions are required to submit annual program updates to the CAATE Board to ensure our program continues to closely align with professional standards and best practices. During the 2020–21 academic year, our department will undergo an additional comprehensive review and site visit. I have no doubt that our faculty and students will continue to be shining examples of excellence in their field.
As best said by department chair Diane Burr, “This accomplishment is certainly the result of the hard-work, dedication, and meticulous attention to detail that both professors Rachelle Hunt and Sharon Bratrud have invested during this four-year period. Today we celebrate; tomorrow we begin the next leg in this journey!”
This is a great example of VCSU’s core value of quality and integrity in action: “We have high expectations for results, integrity, and positive interpersonal relations in all we do.” I am incredibly proud and excited to share another reason why it is a great day to be a Viking!