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accreditation

Southern’s state-of-the-art Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree program earned full accreditation this spring by the American Library Association (ALA), earning it notoriety as the only accredited program of its kind in Connecticut and one of just three in New England. With an emphasis on technology, the program is designed not only to prepare professionals to implement and manage library and information services, but with COVID-19 shaping the way people interact with physical spaces, like libraries, it also will help future librarians steer the changing landscape.

“This is a significant achievement for Southern following seven years of hard work, planning, and new decisions,” Stephen J. Hegedus, dean of Southern’s College of Education said. “The work and planning are aligned with our commitment to social justice and meeting the needs of our regional and state partners through an affordable and accessible degree program. This is the product of a shared commitment and dedication to the library communities and our students by the faculty and senior administration at Southern.”

Southern’s former Master of Library Science (MLS) program was accredited for 45 years, from 1970 to 2015. True to its name, the new online MLIS program, which launched in fall 2016, builds upon the expertise of the former program but features a curriculum that teaches students to “embrace, utilize and critically assess both current and emerging information technologies.” It consists of six core courses, including a field-based internship, five courses focused on specializations of a student’s choice, and one concluding capstone experience, which enables students to showcase and apply their knowledge and skills.

“This accreditation is very important,” Hak Joon Kim, chairperson of the Department of Information and Library Science, said. “All librarian jobs in the United States and Canada require an ALA-accredited degree to even apply. Southern’s program truly is unique.”

Kim noted that while the program has been a success so far, the journey was not without its obstacles — most notably building a program from the ground up and attaining accreditation during a pandemic.

“It takes years to even develop a new course — and we developed 20 of them to launch this program,” Kim said.

The department had prepared for an on-site visit from ALA this spring to conclude the accreditation process but quickly switched gears because of the pandemic.

“We had prepared everything for their visit,” Kim said. “ALA had never had to deal with this — Corona — and so we had to prepare for a virtual 3-day site visit instead. Everyone needed to meet online — faculty, administrators — and we shot videos instead. For the first time ever, ALA did a virtual, onsite visit, even lunch. We were caught in the middle of the pandemic, but they accommodated us and vice versa. ALA believed in us, and we had 45 years of history with them.”

In addition to its status as one of a kind in Connecticut, Kim said the MLIS program is set apart by the fact that it “closes the loop” — meaning it continually improves as the department compares learning outcomes with data sets, each semester.

“And we always ask faculty, ‘How can the program can be better?’” Kim said.

Students’ opinions also factor in. MLIS student Tanner Mroz, ‘20, sat on the Department Curriculum Committee (DCC) and has served as a graduate assistant; as such, he’s contributed student input and curriculum feedback.

“I did my undergrad at Southern,” Mroz said. “I worked at Wallingford Public Library and knew people who went to Southern, and they said [the MLIS program] was a great experience.”

An avid lifelong reader, Mroz’s ultimate goal is to work in a public library, but acknowledges that at least for now, in light of COVID-19, libraries must move away from “brick and mortar and just books.” The digital component of Southern’s MLIS program, which offers courses such as Digital Librarianship, the study of and practice in designing, constructing and evaluating digital libraries for today’s digital media curation, can help future librarians guide libraries in this process.

“At the end of the Digital Librarianship course, we picked something we were passionate about,” Mroz said. “I picked music, because I have a lot of cassettes, and then I chose to create an inserts library for the cassettes. We were developing a virtual library experience, which is especially relevant because of COVID. I think there’s a lot of creative opportunity now to help brick and mortar libraries so we can supplement them, not replace them.”

Hegedus concurred: “Libraries play a critical role in our society both in the academic communities and at the municipal level. Their identities continue to evolve with the needs of society. We are proud to offer a new library science accredited master’s program — the only one in Connecticut — that will benefit all library organizations.”

The Department would like to express its sincere thanks for the support of the University President, the Provost, the Dean of the College of Education, the ILS Advisory Board, and the Connecticut Library Community.  ILS looks forward to the future growth of the program and its continuous updating in line with the needs of the profession.

The SCSU Symphonic Band

Southern’s Department of Music hit one of its highest notes recently, when it received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and became one of just five schools in Connecticut to hold the prestigious distinction. Now the department, known for its excellence and innovative curriculum, is on chord to develop a new degree program in Music Therapy – the first in Connecticut.

“The NASM accreditation brings prestige and notoriety to the institution,” said Craig Hlavac, associate dean, College of Arts & Sciences. Hlavac served as chair of the department from 2013-2017. “It is a testament to the hard work and dedication the entire music faculty have put forth to meet the rigorous standards of NASM. We should all be proud of this recognition and of the excellent work our faculty and students are doing in the area of music.”

The accreditation process was a years-long undertaking, one that some music students, such as Candace Naudé ‘20, observed first-hand.

“We had NASM representatives sit in on some of our classes, and one of the classes was Beethoven and Revolution, a music history class,” Naudé said. “The professor let us know that he didn’t want us to put on any type of show for the accreditors, and I thought that that was a very important statement to make. It showed that we weren’t trying to show off. We weren’t trying to pretend to be something we weren’t. We just had to show the accreditors what Southern’s Music Department and its students are capable of.”

This capability, coupled with Southern’s commitment to student growth, was one of the key strengths NASM recognized during the accreditation process.

“We meet students at their level and take them to the next level,” Jonathan Irving, professor of music, said, “and NASM recognized us for this tremendous commitment to student growth.” Irving served as Music Department chair from 2007 to 2013 and again from 2017 to 2019; he worked with Hlavac on the accreditation materials.

Growth of the department itself is a consideration as well; in that area, the department looked at how it could leverage growth and synergy with other programs on campus, Hlavac said.

“Southern is a chosen destination because of the strength of its programs, such as those in our College of Health and Human Services,” Hlavac said.

Much like health and human services workers, music therapists work in hospitals, hospice centers, behavioral health facilities, and other health-related settings, Hlavac said, and use music to help patients with physical rehabilitation, patient motivation, and emotional support.

“Music therapy is a natural fit, and we will be the only institution to offer it,” he said.

Irving echoed Hlavac’s sentiments: “Accreditation truly is based on commitment to the program – we are constantly moving forward and thinking creatively about growing this program. We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Stutzman Family Foundation, which has singlehandedly supported our music programs. In fact, the NASM executive committee cited its importance.”

Other outcomes of the accreditation include the expansion of the department’s outreach, such as using and enhancing Southern’s John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts and the Spring Glen Church in Hamden for performances, to better serve the community outside of Southern. The Music Department also is conducting a search for a full-time tenure-track chair.

“We may be small in size,” Irving said, “but we have a strong, non-traditional curriculum that includes world music and traditional music. We have jazz ensembles, a choir, and a band. We have plenty of reasons — and now the support — to grow the music program in very exciting ways.”

The National Association of Schools of Music is an association of post-secondary music schools in the United States and the principal U.S. accreditor for higher education in music. Fewer than 650 institutions across the country have the distinction of being accredited by NASM.

 

Graduate reading program, dyslexia

Southern’s graduate degree programs that instruct educators on the teaching of reading have earned a full three-year accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

Southern is one of only about 26 schools in the country – and only the second in Connecticut – to have earned that designation since the organization began offering accreditations in 2012. The accreditation applies to both the Master of Science degree and Sixth-Year Certificate programs in reading. It is awarded to schools that are deemed by IDA to best be able to train teachers to alleviate, prevent or remediate reading difficulties, including dyslexia.

IDA is a non-profit, scientific and educational organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia, as well as related language-based learning differences.

During the accreditation process, independent reviewers are assigned to each university to evaluate their programs and determine whether they align with IDA Standards. The review examines course syllabi and other course materials and requirements, as well as interviews with program directors and a site visit to the school, according to the IDA website.

“Our reading faculty have always had a sterling reputation in Connecticut and the impact that they have had on reading teachers has been profound. But this designation validates our program even further, based on the science of reading,” said Ruth Eren, chairwoman of the SCSU Special Education and Reading Department.

She noted that the department has long held and continues to hold an accreditation from the International Literacy Association, which is considered the gold standard among higher education reading programs. In addition, 97 percent of students in the program have passed the state reading specialist exam to obtain certification in Connecticut since the test started in early 2015.

“Our goal in pursuing this additional accreditation was to best address the instructional needs of students who may or may not be working to capacity due to dyslexia and other types of reading disability,” said Regine Randall, SCSU graduate reading program coordinator.

The designation also will help students in their search for teaching jobs. Laura Raynolds, SCSU associate professor of special education and reading, pointed out that state Individualized Education Program documents now include a check off box specifically about whether a student has dyslexia. The forms must be filled out by educators regarding the program of instruction for student with disabilities.

Previously, the document required teachers to check off whether a student had a learning disability, but now dyslexia is a sub-category. “School PPT (Planning and Placement Teams) teams want someone who is well-versed on dyslexia, and this accreditation will give students graduating from our program an extra boost,” Raynolds said.

An estimated 3 to 20 percent of the population is considered to have some form of dyslexia. SCSU had 94 students enrolled in its graduate reading programs last fall.