Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dr. Janine Pease, a humanities teacher at Little Big Horn College who also serves as its accreditation liaison officer, examines the college’s seven-year self-evaluation report last Thursday afternoon.Little Big Horn College President Dr. David Yarlott speaks to his school’s students during their May 5 graduation ceremony.

‘Highly-positive visit’

Little Big Horn College earns accolades in recent accreditation review
New students arriving at Little Big Horn College on Aug. 31 will enter a campus that, according to President Dr. David Yarlott, has its strongest accreditation yet.
All aspects of the two-year community college were examined, he said, by members of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities over the course of four days in April. While the commission used to examine the college about once per decade, their new system mandates a review every seven years with follow-up reports. The school has remained accredited since 1989.
“Everybody was involved in the process,” said Yarlott, who for two years had participated in weekly planning meetings in preparation for the review. “This was something we all contributed to.”
A July 7 letter to Yarlott by Northwest Commission President Sandra E. Elman states the college has four commendations, or positive notes, for efforts by the “faculty, staff, students, administration and trustees.” 
The college, Elman writes, “[embraces] a mission” that helps students, and aids in the promotion of Crow culture and families. She also believes the college has an effective design (it has a layout organized around a central arbor), and the faculty and staff are dedicated to the students.
“If we weren’t here, where would some of these students go?” asked Frederica Lefthand, Dean of Academics. “Would they have the opportunity to leave the reservation? Not all of them do.
“The commitment that our staff and faculty have…I think, is phenomenal.”
Finally, Elman writes, the college “is to be lauded” for its library that preserves cultural books and resources on historical and contemporary Crow life.
“We were quite confident on the second day that it was a highly-positive visit,” said Dr. Janine Pease, a humanities teacher who also serves as the college’s accreditation liaison officer. “I think we may have ahead of us one of the best years ever.”
The commission also offered recommendations to improve the college. Two of the school’s three issues, Elman writes, “were in compliance with Commission criteria for accreditation, but in need of improvement.” 
For the first two, they recommended the college create and utilize “an effective system of program review [for] its programs and services,” and review assessment processes to ensure achievement and improvement.
The third recommendation, however, referred to a problem where the college was out of compliance. Elman writes that this issue – a lack of “clearly-defined policies with respect to…the creation and production of intellectual property” – needs to be fixed within a prescribed two-year period.
“We’re getting down to what needs to be addressed for areas of improvement, and there aren’t too many,” Pease said. “It’s like launching off into an unknown ocean, but we have a good ship to sail.”
In past years, Yarlott said, the college had between 5-8 recommendations or warnings, and he sees the fact that it has been lowered to three as a good sign for the college’s future.
According to Yarlott, students on the Crow Reservation can sometimes falter in their ambitions to attend a four-year college or they might want to stay in their community. Little Big Horn offers them a chance to pursue higher learning nonetheless.
“It’s like a fresh, new penny,” Pease said of the upcoming school year. “We’re going to do this newly and do it well.”