Lake Superior College (LSC) will host a Comprehensive Evaluation site visit from the Higher Learning Commission on February 12-13, 2024. Lake Superior College has transitioned from AQIP to the Open Pathway for reaffirmation of accreditation. LSC was selected to join the Assessment Academy to fulfil the Quality Initiative required by the Open Pathway.

Reaffirmation Process at LSC

Lake Superior College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), a regional accreditor covering 19 states in the north central region of the United States. LSC has been fully accredited since 1998, with its most recent reaffirmation in 2014-2015. In February of 2024, an HLC peer review team will conduct an on-campus visit as part of LSC’s latest reaffirmation.

Why is it so important?

Regional Accreditation assures that LSC meets the highest national educational standards, and affirms that LSC is providing quality educational experiences for our students.  The accreditation process requires LSC to regularly assess our intended learning outcomes in all academic programs for currency (up to date), relevance (to the workplace or discipline), and effectiveness (students gain the skills and abilities needed for success in their chosen field or discipline).

“HLC is an institutional accreditor recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit degree-granting colleges and universities. Institutional accreditation validates the quality of an institution’s academic programs at all degree levels, whether delivered on-site, online or otherwise. Institutional accreditation also examines the quality of the institution beyond its academic offerings and evaluates the institution as a whole, including the soundness of its governance and administration, adherence to mission, the sustainability of its finances, and the sufficiency of its resources. HLC maintains an active relationship with its member institutions, with frequent communication and regular reviews to ensure quality higher education” (HLC Website).

Accreditation Reaffirmation Process

HLC accreditation reaffirmation occurs on a 10-year cycle. Lake Superior College is following an Open Pathway model, and includes: participation in the Assessment Academy (which is our Quality Initiative), completing an Assurance Review, and the Peer Review team site visit. In addition, LSC must be in compliance with federal and state requirements, as well as demonstrate adherence to Assumed Practices:

“Foundational to the Criteria and Core Components is a set of practices shared by institutions of higher education in the United States. Unlike the Criteria for Accreditation, these Assumed Practices are (1) generally matters to be determined as facts, rather than matters requiring professional judgment and (2) not expected to vary by institutional mission or context. Similar to the Criteria, the Assumed Practices set requirements related to ethical and responsible conduct; quality, resources and support for teaching and learning; evaluation and improvement of teaching and learning; and resources, planning and institutional effectiveness. Every institution must be in compliance with all Assumed Practices at all times” (HLC Policy CRRT.B.10.020).


  • 2020-2021: LSC formed a HLC Steering Group and five Criteria Teams to begin gathering the evidence needed to create the Assurance Review.
  • 2021-2022: Teams gather evidence and begin writing statements. Updates to the website commence.
  • Summer 2022: campus communications and internal marketing campaign is developed.
  • 2022-2023: Assurance Review is completed. Internal marketing and external marketing continue. Student opinion surveys completed, and third-party survey is completed and published.
  • February 2024: Peer Review Team visit!

Criteria and Team

Steering Team

  • Hanna Erpestad
  • Sarah Lyons
  • Jestina Vichorek
  • Emily Chapinski
  • Amy Jo Swing
  • Anna Sackette-Urness
  • Melissa Leno
  • Nickoel Anderson
  • LaNita Robinson
  • Al Finlayson
  • Patricia Rogers
  • Linda Kingston

Criterion 1: Mission

The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.

Criterion 1 Team

  • Hanna Erpestad – co-lead
  • Brad Vieths – co-lead
  • Wade Gordon
  • Lindsy Mason O’Brien
  • Daniel Guinee
  • Trevor Wills
  • Lynn Lindahl

Criterion 2: Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct

The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

Criterion 2 Team

  • Sarah Lyons – co-lead
  • Jestina Vichorek – co-lead
  • Wade Gordon
  • Kelli Hallsten Erickson
  • Steve Fudally

Criterion 3. Teaching and Learning: Quality, Resources, and Support

The institution provides quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

Criterion 3 Team

  • Emily Chapinski – co-lead
  • Amy Jo Swing – co-lead
  • Peggy Gustofson
  • Steve Dalager
  • Dean Magnuson
  • Jessica Bortolus
  • Jody Greniger

Criterion 4. Teaching and Learning: Evaluation and Improvement

The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement

Criterion 4 Team

  • Anna Sackette-Urness – co-lead
  • Melissa Leno – co-lead
  • Jill Murray
  • Sarah Lyons
  • Bill Heider
  • Gretchen Flaherty
  • Lori Yecoshenko
  • Matt Farchmin

Criterion 5. Institutional Effectiveness, Resources and Planning

The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities.

Criterion 5 Team

  • Nickoel Anderson – co-lead
  • LaNita Robinson – co-lead
  • Kirsten Bowman
  • Kaitlyn Taggart
  • Tim Brandon
  • Al Finlayson

HLC Assessment Academy Project

LSC has a two-phase project, established in January of 2021:

  1. Part of the project is curriculum mapping course outcomes, program outcomes, and college-wide outcomes. This part of the project is led by the Academic Assessment Committee (not the Assessment Academy team) as faculty are discussing/redesigning program reviews. Being able to meld institutional data with program data and faculty data ensures that Lake Superior College is collecting the assessment information required to meet outcomes for students at all levels, thereby creating a campus focused on student learning.
  2. During this project, each program or department investigates the usefulness/validity of its current program/departmental reviews by using guided questions, data, and program outcomes. Faculty in each area then revise the program review using data, templates, sample reviews, and feedback. The new reviews will focus on student learning and highlight successes and areas of improvement for each program/department. Additionally, the new reviews will transition from a once-every-four years task to a cyclical four-year project, with tasks completed every year to keep the reviews helpful and relevant. The focus will change from reviews that sit unread on a shelf to reviews that are dynamic, living documents that track student learning and provide necessary data of assessment.

Both parts of the project progress at the same time and ultimately join into one large project, thereby creating a culture of assessment on campus. Note: each department will have its own starting point determined by where it currently is in the curriculum map.

Project Strategies (as envisioned in 2021):

  1. First, locate assessment that has already been completed. See what work has been done and what is still helpful/relevant to both parts of the project. For instance, CWOs and POs are already aligned in programs that have an accrediting body for licensure or certification. However, other areas, such as individual LAS departments, may still be working towards alignment.
  2. Create a detailed timeline for the project which will keep the Assessment Academy team and all stakeholders in check and up-to-date on tasks.
  3. Front-load the prep work before rolling out the project to campus during January duty day. Make sure clear instructions are easily accessed and have guided questions completed, existing data available, samples prepared as needed, etc. Know what the project will look like as portions of it start to break down to the program and department level.
  4. Also have a communication plan in place. Understand how we, the AA team, will ensure that contact, awareness, and understanding of the project is clear, and anticipate how engagement, acceptance, and commitment to the project will look for different areas of campus.
  5. Utilize technology for communication. Hopefully existing technology, such as Microsoft Teams or D2L, will be useful. Decide if additional technology needs to be purchased (hopefully not).
  6. Pilot the project in the second year, most likely with two areas from each division. Use programs that already have useful program reviews, like nursing, and programs/departments that will be moderately difficult to pilot. Following the pilot, new programs and departments can be added every year, using data and information from prior program reviews.
  7.  Authentic and timely feedback for participants in each area of the project is crucial. This could be a rubric, checklist, individual feedback, etc.
  8. Commit to work regularly as a team for the big project, and early on, determine how the different project tasks and responsibilities will be completed (by the AA team or others on campus).
  9. Use available resources and remember it’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel. Use AA mentors, scholars, graduated institutions, and cohort institutions.

Assessment Academy project Timeline

Fall 2020

  • Attend the RoundTable (completed)
  • Meet biweekly until the end of the semester, then biweekly or once a month in spring semester to discuss current and next steps in the project.
  • Review our current processes and where the weaknesses are; decide what needs to change.
  • Plan Duty Day Jan. 2021 – AA Committee in the AM for outcome alignment, AA Team in PM division meetings for program review
  • Identify review process

Spring 2021

  • Work with Academic Assessment Committee to align the project goals and make sure it is on track.
  • Introduce the project at Duty Day in January 2021 if needed
  • Select which programs and departments pilot the program (ideally, two areas in each division; leave Student Services until after the consulting project is complete)
  • Determine what a program review template will look like – for customization
  • Get/give feedback in multiple ways to keep faculty and staff active and autonomous in the process.
  • Draft what the program review will look like for different academic areas
  • Identify the leaders in each area to collect data and report back to the AA Team
  • Plan for the pilot rollout in Fall 2021

Fall 2021

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Pilot program review with 4 – 6 areas of campus that are ready for it, most likely from AH and B & I
  • Pilot outcome alignment with 4 – 6 areas of campus, especially from LAS (via AA Committee)
  • Fall and spring semester: draft what the program review looks like for LAS

Spring 2022

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Add more programs to start their phase of the pilot, whether Program Review (AA Team) or Outcome Alignment (AA Committee)
  • Start reviewing progress from fall semester areas – revise as necessary
  • Reflect on what has been accomplished and how to make it smoother for future programs/depts.
  • Develop a sustainability plan, including how program reviews will cycle every four years within each program or department.

Fall 2022

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Roll out program review with 4 or so LAS depts. as outcome alignment should be finished for some
  • Survey the programs: is data helping give information that is needed to complete this project?

Spring 2023

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Continue evaluation of project with active depts. and programs. Make sure project continues to be manageable – not too many goals to cover at once.
  • Specifically check in with LAS areas to see how the program review project is progressing
  • Continue to add campus areas to the Program Review as they are ready
  • Make revisions as needed for each area of campus

Fall 2023

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Persist with getting and giving feedback to those involved in the program review project.
  • Continue evaluating and revising the project as needed for faculty
  • Develop a plan for making the project sustainable and expandable to all programs and departments (most should be on board by now)

Spring 2024

  • Continue to meet as a team
  • Revise the project as necessary through data collection and project updates
  • Create a massive report with all data, impacts, accomplishments, ongoing challenges, and promising practices
  • Develop a sustainability plan, including the four-year program review plan so departments and programs are working with program reviews each year