Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 ACCET Annual Conference. The event opened with the conference chair who introduced the theme of Building Sustainable Brands. She proceeded to tell a story from her childhood about when she accompanied her dad to a cattle farm. While there she grew concerned about the cattle being branded. She repeatedly asked her dad if it hurt. He described the process and assured her that the cattle were not being harmed, but were being marked as a sign of ownership and quality. Finally, after additional questions, she was satisfied with the response. This particular memory came to her mind as she was planning the upcoming annual conference in San Antonio focusing on brands.
While branding occurs now in many different forms, it continues to serve the same purposes. Branding allows the cattle to roam freely and graze while distinguishing ownership. Branding communicates a minimum level of quality when cattle are sent to the auction. Branding sets a minimum price based on prior consistent results. For cattle ranchers, branding is important and takes years to develop the value it represents. Ranchers focus on the health and care of their cattle seeking the best places for them to graze, protecting them from disease, and assuring their safety. Raising quality cattle is a daily responsibility and not one that ranchers take lightly. There are no days off. They are constantly looking for ways to improve operations not only for the cattle in their care, but for the people they eventually feed.
Higher education institutions have a brand as well. One that marks every student who graduates from the programs offered. This brand represents the hard work and dedication that an institution’s, leadership, administration, and faculty dedicate to delivering relevant programs that meets students’ needs. Not only are students representations of their institutions’ brand, but institutions receive their own brand when they choose to seek and retain accreditation. Institutions are dedicated to an improvement process as a way of communicating to students and eventually the public that they care about quality. Accreditation is not a process to determine perfection, but is a commitment to continually strive to be better than before. The voluntary process is one way higher education institutions choose to communicate they meet a minimum level of quality to the students and public they serve. It is an opportunity to openly say, we are committed to doing things better because we care about the people we serve.
Institutions can choose to “be accredited or live accredited.” Institutions are “not here to fix people, but to love people.” ~ Peggy Tiderman, ACCET Commissioner
How does your institution communicate a commitment to quality?