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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Students share experiences, opinions at accreditation open forum

Students+speak+on+experiences+during+an+open+forum+in+Sargent+Hall.
Leo Woods
Students speak on experiences during an open forum in Sargent Hall.

Suffolk undergraduate, graduate and law students were invited to share their experiences at an open student forum as part of a visit from New England Commission of Higher Educators accreditors Oct. 30. 

Students across the institution were asked by the two evaluators to share their positive experiences at Suffolk, as well as areas for improvement. Accreditors Thomas Welch, vice president of finance and administration at Husson University, and Deborah Cady Melzer, vice president for student development at Loyola University Maryland, led the forum.

“Student experience is very helpful to understand the going concerns of the university and how students receive the services that they have on campus. For us, it’s really a moment to look at what the actual outcomes are for the university as a whole and to really understand the impacts that are being made on students,” said Welch, a standard seven evaluator, which assesses institutional resources.

Throughout the forum, law, graduate and undergraduate students alike expressed how their experiences have shown that the culture of Suffolk is centered around inclusion and support. 

“Suffolk is inclusive, which creates this welcoming environment. I shared that the many identities I have – being an out-of-state student, POC, first-generation student and having numerous positions on campus – I found that in the many communities I’m a part of at Suffolk, I feel very included and heard,” said Laila Ahmad-Zani, a junior sociology and international relations student who attended the forum. “I feel like I have a space at Suffolk and I found it through the clubs I’m a part of – Asian American Association and Vietnamese Student Association.”

Students across all three programs voiced that this culture also trickles down from the support and engagement of faculty.

“The individuals within [the Orientation and Student Leadership] departments have become huge mentors for me and have provided me with a second home on campus. They are people that I can go to in and outside of my roles for support and guidance. I also touched on how I believe that Suffolk should provide a bigger variety of course offerings and create more transparency when they are adding and/or dropping programs and courses,” said Jillian Flynn, a senior undergraduate law major.

This engagement, and the impact it has on students throughout the university, was seen by evaluators throughout their visit.

“It’s very clear that students value their relationships with faculty members. Those relationships really help with educational attainment, which is ultimately universities’ goal,” said Cady Melzer, a standard five evaluator, which assesses student life, from enrollment to co-curriculars.

Among areas for improvement, students voiced concerns and challenges surrounding transparency in communication from university officials, especially with decisions that impact students’ degree programs, the shallow depth of course offerings, the two-year housing guarantee and willingness to adapt with the emergence of new technologies.

“I think some of the things that frustrate students probably also frustrate the university,” said Cady Melzer. “Housing, for example, especially being in Boston. The blessing of that is that the city is your oyster. The challenge of that is that it’s very expensive. I think students want to do really good work through their clubs and organizations, and how they’re funded to help support that work is something that I heard from students as a level of concern.”

The forum brought in students from across schools, drawing different experiences and opinions from each student-speaker. The timing of the forum, during the mid-afternoon Monday, may have acted as a barrier for participation.

“It was great to see Suffolk students from different backgrounds come speak on their experiences and any issues. However, I do wish that the forum was scheduled at a different time or at least a better time, such as activities period, to accommodate students with busy schedules and get more voices,” said Alex Tran, a junior business analytics and information systems student.

For students who attended and spoke at the forum, it served as a space for an open conversation about students’ experiences and ideas for the university, an opportunity highly-valued by those in attendance.

“As a student leader on campus, I believe it is vital to share our own individual opinions and experiences in order to work with other students and faculty on campus to make our university better,” said Flynn. “This forum was a great opportunity to talk with other students across different schools about what Suffolk does well and ways in which we can improve to make our campus stronger.”

Following the forum, NECHE evaluators are set to create a preliminary report to be shared with university officials, to which the university can respond accordingly. Following the initial report, according to Welch, NECHE will hold a meeting in the spring to either reaffirm the university’s accreditation or “offer stipulations from future visits.”

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About the Contributors
Maren Halpin, News Editor | she/her
Maren is a sophomore print/web journalism major with a minor in political science from Milford, Massachusetts. When she’s not in The Journal office, you can usually find Maren in Suffolk’s orientation office or at an on-campus event. In her free time, she loves to go to her favorite coffee shops, listen to Noah Kahan, Hozier and Taylor Swift on repeat, explore the city and spend time with family and friends. Maren is passionate about politics and hopes to go into political journalism in the future. 
Leo Woods, Photo Editor | he/him

Leo is a senior political science major with a minor in journalism from Clinton, Conn. He has photographed political events, protests, performing arts groups and documented Boston Pride for the People for the History Project. Outside of Suffolk, Leo is an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and podcast listener. After graduation, he plans on attending law school and working in politics.

Follow Leo on Twitter @leowoods108

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