NAU measures up with higher ed award


Northern Arizona University is the only four-year university nationwide receiving a Council for Higher Education Accreditation award for its commitment to student learning.

The 2009 CHEA Award for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes is recognition for NAU’s success in student learning outcomes and using those outcomes to evaluate and improve programs.

“We are thrilled to receive this award reflecting the cumulative effort of faculty and staff who have embraced assessment as a key strategy for advancing the quality of our programs,” said Karen Pugliesi, NAU’s vice provost for Academic Affairs.

Established in 2006 to recognize institutions exceptional in developing and applying evidence of student learning outcomes to improve educational quality, the award was given by a council committee of experts from higher education institutions who chose NAU from 32 applicants.

“I think our focus on integrating learning outcomes into strategic planning distinguished us from other applicants,” Pugliesi said.

The council praised NAU’s academic programming that has been developed by measuring student learning outcomes. One of NAU’s strategic plan goals is to focus on the quality of student learning. NAU has a Strategic Planning Council to monitor the university’s progress in assessing student experiences.

Tom Paradis, director of academic assessment at NAU, who provided leadership in strengthening and assessing student programs, will accept the award during the 2009 CHEA annual conference, Jan. 26 through 29 in Washington, D.C. The council is covering Paradis’ travel costs.

Generating a “culture of assessment” has been one of the greatest challenges facing colleges and universities nationwide, Paradis noted.

“I believe that we have been fortunate to enable a genuine campus culture among faculty, staff and administration that embraces the fundamental purpose of academic assessment,” he said. “Our focus is on what matters most to faculty and students—their curricula and internal and external opportunities for student achievement.”

Paradis said the University Assessment Committee, Faculty Development, the staff of the Office of Academic Assessment, academic leadership and supporting units such as E-Learning, Cline Library, Student Affairs and faculty are collaborating in the “ongoing role in improving our process for academic assessment at NAU.”

In addition to NAU, Delaware Technical & Community College also was awarded the 2009 CHEA Award for Institutional Progress in Student Learning Outcomes. For information about the council, go to