Pagano appointed new head of assessment

By The Columbia Chronicle

Bruno Vandervelde

Staff Writer

With sights set on the upcoming re-accreditation visit, Columbia has appointed Neil Pagano as the new director of assessment. The assessment is an annual report outlining the goals of each department in the college and determining whether they have been reached.

This year’s self-study report and assessment lead to a visit by the North Central Association in April. A three-member panel from the NCA, the regional college accreditation agency, will visit the college to examine everything from departmental practices to water fountains. This trio will then make their recommendation to the NCA for final judgment on re-accreditation.

“The re-accreditation process takes place every ten years, while the self-study cycle is continuous,” said Pagano. “Assessment needs to be an ongoing process.” As director of assessment, Pagano reviews departmental policies and practices. Each department has a sort of “mission statement” and Pagano is out to ensure that missions are carried out. “Teachers should be actively involved,” he stated.

Pagano calls assessment an opportunity to appraise the college. “It’s like a business report to shareholders,” he said, referring to the annual academic report released by the college. The NCA, meanwhile, uses these reports as an integral factor in the re-accreditation process. They will also use tests, surveys, and assorted other projects to determine student learning outcomes, one of the more important tenets of re-accreditation proceedings. Student grades, however, are not examined by the NCA for obvious reasons. “Grades are separate…We’re not out to punish individual students or teachers. We’re out to evaluate the general program,” Pagano said.

Pagano spent five and a half years as chair of the assessment committee at St. Augustine College in Chicago. He also was the assessment coordinator for their Department of Languages and Literature. Pagano will likely make an easy transition from there to Columbia College. “[St. Augustine College] has many of the same characteristics as Columbia College,” Pagano said, noting the relatively small sizes, open admissions policies, and unique curricula of both schools.

The re-accreditation visit will last three days during the middle of April 1999, according to Academic Dean Caroline Latta. “[Re-accreditation] is an exciting time… It forces the college to look upon itself and examine the job we are doing,” she said. “It’s actually a healthy thing for an institution to do.”