Accreditation is no small thing, nor is its acquisition easily achieved. In order to attain such levels of excellence, an entire institution must come together and work towards a common goal.
In order to celebrate its recent NEASC accreditation, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane recently organized an Institutional Accreditation Celebration wherein it arranged to demonstrate the myriad hurdles it overcame to achieve this new level of excellence. The cornerstone of this celebration laid in stressing the role played by each department, placing the onus on their individual accomplishments and how these have made Al Akhawayn what it is today.
To illustrate these many accomplishments, AUI organized an all-day Achievements Exhibition which took the form of placards covering the University’s main entrance. Each of these posters elucidated a different facet of the University so as to exemplify the diversity of the recent undertaking. The roll-ups showcased fifteen separate entities, including the three main schools—the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS), the School of Science and Engineering (SSE), and the School of Business Administration (SBA)— the Language Center (LC), the Student Activities Office (SAO), the Executive Education Center (EEC), the Institute of Economic Analysis and Prospective Studies (IEAPS), Student Life, Internationalization, Quality Assurance, Institutional Accreditation, Programmatic Accreditation, Human Capital, Community and Social Responsibility, Academic Supports, and Alumni.
These different posters described the entities’ respective evolutions—how they came about, how they have changed over the years, as well as what they are today. They also supplied the entities’ mission statements and displayed the most noteworthy data. In the case of the SAO, for instance, their poster demonstrated how the office has moved and grown, and how the number of clubs has increased exponentially as a result of the student body’s expansion. Other posters, such as Academic Support’s, demonstrated the various supports offered to students on campus—from the Center for Learning Excellence to the Writing Center—as well as the amenities offered by each of those support centers.
Al Akhawayn is proud of its recent accreditation, but it is prouder still of the people that came together to make it happen.
Written by Liam Reilly
In order to recognize the contributions of the greater Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane community, as well as the particular roles played by various key members in the NEASC accreditation, AUI recently held a “Recognition Ceremony” during its “Institutional Accreditation Celebration”. This ceremony featured many speakers, including Dr. Driss Ouaouicha (President of AUI), Dr. Barbara Brittingham (President of CIHE at NEASC), Mr. Abdellatif Jouahri (Chancellor of AUI), Dr. Jack Kalapkian (Chair of the Academic Council), Mr. Said Nouamani (Chair of the Administrative Advisory Council), and Mr. Souhail Ramid (President of the Student Government Association), as well as a closing choir that sang two songs. Though their speeches varied in content, they were bound together with one message: this momentous achievement would not have been possible without the support given by the students, faculty, and staff.
The importance behind this accreditation is, as Mr. Ramid stated in his speech, that it will bring “a sense of motivation and inspiration to the brightest minds of Al Akhawayn University”, pushing them to strive for even greater heights. Dr. Kalpakian echoed this sentiment, affirming that the NEASC accreditation will certainly assure employers “that the education at Al Akhawayn is a Liberal Arts education in the vein of the sort of education offered in the United States”.
However, while this accreditation aptly demonstrates the caliber of the AUI education, it also shows the effort the staff and faculty are willing to put in in order to achieve these even greater heights. These accreditations are neither easily achieved, nor easily maintained—indeed, AUI is the first ever non-US American university in Africa to be the recipient of NEASC accreditation. But President Ouaouicha is confident that “we have a responsibility to maintain [this] level of excellence”, and, more importantly, “we have a responsibility to move forward, to develop, and move to the next level of excellence which we will achieve by defining, working on together, and seeing what the next chapter will look like”.
“Excellent universities,” Dr. Brittingham tells us, “are excellent in part because they take advantage of every opportunity for improvement, and you have taken advantage of that through the accreditation process [… and] as remarkable as Al Akhawayn University is in its young history, I am confident that your best days are ahead of you”. To borrow the President’s own language, the chapter may be finished, but the story has only just begun.
Written by Liam Reilly
At midday on the day of the Institutional Accreditation Celebration, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane held a press conference for some of the largest names in Morocco. Present were la MAP, L'Economiste, 2M, Mounaataf, Al Majalla, 24 Azrou, Al Alam, Atlas Hebdo, Radio plus, Rabat Chaine Inter, Les Inspirations Eco, La Nouvelle Tribune, Consonews, Infomédia, Le Matin, Chouf TV, Le Site Info, Al Bayane, Bayane Al Yaoum, and many others who were not present also chose to cover the subject.
The questions posed by the media were wide-ranging, but by and large their main focuses were the accreditation, what it means for AUI, and what it means for Morocco. They sought to understand the nine-year process undertaken by AUI, as well as what accreditation might mean for the University looking forward: whether the University will content itself with this achievement, or if it will seek additional accolades. Such questions are important, for at the heart of this achievement lies the fact that AUI is the first non-US American accredited university in Africa, which means that AUI also has the responsibility to set a precedent not only within its immediate country, but also within the continent as a whole.
Not all articles have been published as of yet, but some are already available for viewing.
Written by Liam Reilly
Not all the events of the recent Institutional Accreditation Celebration were entirely without jovial festivities. Amidst the thoughtful celebrations of the recent NEASC accreditation, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane also organized a Midday Celebration wherein students, faculty, and staff, accompanied by representatives of NEASC, took to the area outside of Building 3 in order to enjoy a bit of sun, make a little noise, and eat some cake.
When everyone arrived at the restaurants, a cake bearing the AUI logo and the NEASC emblem was brought out. Before the ceremonial cutting of the cake, Amina Benkhadra, a member of the National Rally of Independents Party, received the honour of cutting loose a number of balloons, a symbolic act meant to represent the culmination and conclusion of nine long years’ work.
Following the balloon release, the cake itself was cut. The inaugural slice was simultaneously cut by Drs. Driss Ouaouicha (President of AUI) and Barbara Brittingham (President of CIHE at NEASC), an act which represented the coming together of two institutions.
People present were also able to grab a slice before moving on to the next event. The Midday Celebration was live streamed by drone and is available for viewing by anyone with this link
To finish the day of festivities, Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane organized a round table, the topic of conversation of which was the place of quality assurance in higher education. The round table itself was staffed by Dr. Driss Ouaouicha, Dr. Barbara Brittingham, Mr. Larbi Belarbi, and Mrs. Amina Benkhadra, and was moderated by Dr. Wafae ElGarah. There were other attendees, including Al Akhawayn University students, faculty, staff, both current and former executives, former directors, partners, and higher education representatives from both the public and the private sectors.
The aim of the round table was to re-establish what accreditation means within AUI in order to look towards the future. It was agreed that while it is easy to oversimplify accreditation by conflating it with a mere state of being, it is much more than a mere certification. As Dr. ElGarah stated, accreditation “allows us to develop a culture—a culture of excellence, a culture of quality where everyone is constantly looking at ways to better improve his or her work” (ElGarah). Thus, while accreditation is the recognition of the institution’s excellence, it simultaneously provides that same institution with the tools to reach even higher: to do more.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Thomas W. Keef, President of Dallas University. Rather than thinking of accreditation as an end, Dr. Keef entreated the University officials to view it as a beginning. “Don’t allow yourself to become self-satisfied,” Dr. Keef told officials, “Now that you’ve reach accreditation. […] Be your own best competition […] you are more self-aware of who you are now: take that, and build on that.”
With the conclusion of the quality assurance round table, the Institutional Accreditation Day came to a close. As it ended, so too did a chapter of AUI’s history, but while the chapter is done, the book is far from finished.