Visiting Committees to Administrative Departments
Visiting Committees provide an opportunity for reflection and discussion aimed at strengthening our administrative programs. Departments will benefit from multiple perspectives and receive informed feedback about their particular operations and objectives. The Visiting Committee process is very much a partnership between the department and the members of the committee.
The spirit of the visits should be lively and informal – a shared concern for the work of the department will animate the discussions and create a collaborative environment within which the visit can take place
The visiting committee program has four primary purposes:
- to provide a regular opportunity for self-assessment combined with the fresh perspective of an external review;
- to examine the operation and objectives of the department and the department’s effectiveness in meeting its objectives;
- to help a department articulate its strengths and challenges;
- to provide a written report following the visit that includes recommendations for departmental development and progress.
Visiting Committees are usually composed of two to three members of the Board of Observers and an invited expert from another liberal arts college. The outside expert, who serves as the Chair is selected by the President in consultation with the appropriate department head.
The Campus Visit
The Committee prepares for its visit by reviewing briefing materials prepared by the department in consultation with its Dean or Vice President. During the Committee’s visit to campus, Committee members meet with the President, the department head and appropriate members of the department, as well as other administrators and/or faculty as appropriate. These meetings are intended to be collaborative and conversational in tone and format.
Dinner with the President, appropriate Dean or Vice President, and department head to discuss any questions or issues raised by the briefing materials.
Breakfast: committee meets to plan day; review questions
Morning: meetings with department members; review additional materials
Lunch: working lunch with representative students
Afternoon: meetings with faculty and other staff directly involved with the department
Dinner: Informal dinner and discussion with department members
Committee breakfast and working session to review and outline the committee’s findings and recommendations. Drafting assignments are determined and the basic content and structure of the report are agreed upon.
Lunch with Dean or Vice President, review of preliminary report
After the visit concludes, the Committee Chair, in cooperation with the other members of the Committee, prepares a report addressing the questions described in the guidelines below. Normally this report is submitted to the President within four weeks of the visit. The President will share the report with the department head. The department head then has three weeks to prepare a brief response to the report.
The report and response are then submitted to the appropriate committee of the Board of Trustees for its comments. Copies are also sent to all Trustees. The Observers who were members of the Visiting Committee and the department head, may join the appropriate Board committee for a discussion of the report.
The visiting committee’s report will normally address the following kinds of questions:
- Are the department’s mission and primary objectives appropriate, given the overall mission of the College?
- What are the department’s major operational strengths? Are there major operational challenges?
- Do resources match needs? If there is underutilized space, equipment, or staff time, how might it be redeployed? If there is insufficient space, equipment, or staff time which resource needs are most pressing?
- Is the department meeting goals, achieving targets, and generating appropriate results?
- What goals should the department aim to achieve prior to the next visit?
Departmental Briefing Books
The department should prepare briefing materials for the Visiting Committee that give the Committee information to help it respond to the kinds of questions posed in the guidelines above. Briefing materials will be sent to Visiting Committee members approximately three weeks prior to the campus visit. The department should feel free to include material that will highlight issues the department believes it will be useful to discuss with the visiting committee.
Briefing materials should include:
- A department self-study that includes:
- The department’s mission and objectives in the context of Muhlenberg’s mission
- A specific description of results generated by the department, targets met, goals achieved, etc. (past five years)
- A specific description of department operations, timelines, etc.
- A description of departmental strengths and challenges from the perspective of the department
- A list of any special concerns or issues the department wants the Visiting Committee to address
- A current C.V. and job description for each department member
- Other material the department wishes to include (e.g., departmental budget, departmental publications, project or event descriptions, etc.). Material that cannot fit into a binder can be made available to the committee when it arrives.