Interims As Public Commissioners: Suggested Practices
Dr. Kathryn Dodge
Former Executive Director
New Hampshire Higher Education Commission
Editor’s Note: In this interview, Dr. Kathryn Dodge reflects on her service as the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission, outlining how these and related experiences are relevant for those who wish to serve as interim administrators.
What does it mean to be a Public Commissioner of an accreditation agency of this sort?
Public commissioners at higher education accreditation commissions provide an outsiders’ perspective on process and an eye toward protecting the public from egregious “insider” behavior. There are two types of accreditors, institutional and specialized. Regional accreditors are now considered institutional accreditors with a national scope.
Accreditation commissions typically meet quarterly. Institutional accreditors tend to engage their public members in all aspects of the review process. Specialized accreditors are less inclined to do so given the esoteric nature of various fields. Both types of accreditors highly value public commissioner perspectives on the complaint process and assessment of an accreditation commission’s organizational health. Some accreditors are better at making good use of public commissioners than others.
How have your prior professional experiences been relevant to this work? In what ways do those experience give you a unique perspective that may not be shared by your colleagues?
Grounded in a public liberal arts environment, and a decade as Executive Director of the New Hampshire Higher Education Commission (formerly the Postsecondary Education Commission), reinforced a commitment to quality assurance, and protection of the public from bad actors in higher education. Understanding the impact of policy on institutional and student success, appreciation for our peer review system and how accreditation can strategically be used by a presidents to move institutions forward are concepts that resonate for me.
If someone were interested in pursuing this kind of work themselves, what are some channels that you might recommend?
The topic of recruitment remains an informal relational process. Recruitment, training, and development of public commissioners is a delicate process, public commissioner outsider perspectives are valuable and yet their capacity to contribute is based on their knowledge of the quality assurance process.
In what ways might experience as a Public Commissioner be transferable to service as a Registry interim?
Institutional accreditation experience provides insight into current institutional challenges, expands understanding of the scope of myriad institutions applying standards in the context of a particular institutional scope and mission. Specialized accreditation experience is a humbling experience as nomenclature makes access to the details of the work difficult. Public commissioner assignments vary by accreditation commission. In both cases public commissioners exercises skills in bringing an independent perspective and support development of an accreditation body responsible for quality assurance that meets standards of the United States Department of Education.