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WASC site visit to ASCC ends on positive note

Over this past weekend, the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) hosted a site visit by a four-person team representing the Senior Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

The team was on campus to review the four-year components of the College’s Teacher Education Department (TED) for a report the team will make to the Senior Commission, who will in turn determine whether to grant ASCC Candidate for Accreditation status. Should this status be granted, this will set the stage for a final review by the Senior Commission sometime later this year.

Dr. Richard Winn, Vice President of the WASC Senior Commission; Dr. Aubyn S. Fulton, Professor of Psychology at Pacific Union College; Dr. Jonathan V. McKee, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at University of Hawaii Maui College; and Dr. Richard R. Rush, President of California State University, Channel Islands made up the visiting team.

Upon their arrival at  ASCC this past Friday morning, the visitors were greeted with an ava ceremony performed by the Student Association for the Faasamoa, followed by a walking tour of the main campus. From that point on, the Senior Commission representatives spent the remainder of Friday conducting an extensive evaluation of the TED, visiting its facilities and interviewing staff and students from the department, along with other ASCC personnel who provide the academic and administrative support for the program.

“Our TED faculty met with them to share our work and to respond to any of their questions about our program,” said TED Director Dr. Lina Galea’i-Scanlan.  “Some of our students also met with them to share with how important they feel our program is and to talk about their educational experiences with us.” The ASCC administration had expected the WASC review process to last through Saturday, but such was the College’s level of preparation for the team’s visit that by late Friday the Senior Commission reps announced that it had made all of their necessary observations and would conduct the concluding “exit interview” the next morning.

A visiting WASC team can only share a summary of its findings through an “exit interview” consisting solely of commendations and recommendations, at the conclusion of their visit. Members of the Board of Higher Education, the ASCC administration and the TED all gathered early Saturday morning for the exit interview, which, much to everyone’s relief and delight, were for the most part very positive.  Commendations focused on the College’s identification of educational needs in American Samoa, its role in education in the Pacific region, its utilization of technology, and its cooperative spirit with WASC. The team also recognized the financial support of the College by the American Samoa Government. Recommendations included that ASCC should “stay the course” in the accreditation process and continue to “bring to maturity” its assessment strategy.

“The commendations reflected their high regard for the great deal of work put into developing the B.Ed. Program,” summarized Dr. Galea’i-Scanlan. “The team was highly impressed and commended the faculty, staff and administration for their exemplary work. The recommendations focused on areas that we have been looking at as well, and we will have no problem in responding to them. Overall, the exit interview was very positive and our entire ASCC family can be proud of the commendations; they reflected true teamwork on everyone’s part in helping us meet our goal and our visit needs.”

On behalf of the entire ASCC family, Board of Higher Education Chairman Uta Dr. Laloulu Tagoilelagi thanked the WASC visitors for their professionalism, affability and encouragement. Following the team’s exit, ASCC President Dr. Seth Galea’i commended everyone at the meeting for their tireless preparation that ensured the success of the site visit.

“To quote a venerable Chinese philosopher,” said Dr. Galea’i, “every battle is won before it’s fought.” The ASCC President also remarked on how this visit marks a crucial step in a process the College has worked towards literally for decades. “You can trace the vision of ASCC offering a BA degree back to the earliest days of the College over 25 years ago,” said President Galea’i.  “For the many of us who have worked towards this goal for so long, it means more than words can say to see it nearing completion.”

TED Director Dr. Galea’i-Scanlan said the positive outcome “speaks volumes about the hard work that has gone into the curriculum development of the B.Ed. Program. The faculty and adjunct faculty plays a key role in ensuring quality and best practices.  The success of the program is their success and in turn it makes me proud to be a part of the journey.” The WASC Senior Commission is expected to meet in June and come to a decision on the application by ASCC for Candidate for Accreditation status.