HAYS, KS -- A year ago, Fort Hays State University was one of only 14 universities and community colleges accepted as charter participants in an innovative program for accreditation.
Now that accreditation process has produced an unexpected bonus.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, announced at a news conference Friday morning that the university was among 58 Kansas businesses and organizations honored at the sixth annual Kansas Award for Excellence banquet Oct. 23 in Topeka.
President Hammond accepted the prestigious Commitment to Excellence Award from Gov. Bill Graves at the ceremony. The Commitment to Excellence Award is the first of three levels of recognition in the statewide program. This award goes to organizations that demonstrate a serious commitment to the use of quality principles. The award recognizes organizations that have entered the early stages of applying the principles of the Baldrige National Quality Award.
"I am absolutely committed to the idea that Fort Hays State can continue to get better," the president said. "Excellence is our goal, so we constantly review all our processes, including the many things we do well, to find ways that we can do them even better."
He said that was why Fort Hays State University asked last year to have its accreditation renewed by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools under a new format, called the Academic Quality Improvement Project, which is designed to support, encourage and recognize institutions for their continuous improvement efforts and accomplishments.
"Accreditation is vitally important because it assures students and the public-at-large that a university meets established standards of learning, and it allows educational institutions to accept grades, courses and degrees from other universities with the assurance that they have met the same standards of quality," President Hammond said.
Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU provost, said that as part of the process of preparing for the exclusive Academic Quality Improvement Project for accreditation, the university needed to participate in one of several continuous improvement programs that are available. It selected the Kansas Award of Excellence program, and the award followed.
Dr. Rob Scott, assistant to the provost for institutional effectiveness and assessment, prepared and submitted the FHSU application and also served as an award examiner for the Kansas Award for Excellence Foundation, which oversees the awards. Scott said the Fort Hays State application included information related to leadership of the university, planning, and whether or not the university achieved its goals, foremost in regard to the education of its students.
The Kansas Award for Excellence program annually recognizes organizations from across the state that have used the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Criteria for Performance Excellence. For more than 13 years, thousands of U.S. organizations have used the Baldrige Criteria to stimulate improvements in their competitiveness and business performance that lead to global success.
The Kansas Award for Excellence Foundation is the Kansas affiliate of the Baldrige Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Fort Hays State University joins more than 133 Kansas organizations that have been recognized by the Kansas Award for Excellence Foundation for their commitment to and application of the Baldrige Criteria in Kansas.
The program is designed not only to serve as a reliable basis for making awards, but also to identify applicants' strengths and areas for improvement. Applicants can then use this information to guide their quality improvement activities.
In addition, winners of the Kansas Award for Excellence are expected to share information about their successful quality improvement strategies with other Kansas organizations. The shared information is intended to foster awareness of the importance of quality for building the competitiveness of Kansas organizations and will encourage others to undertake their own quality improvement efforts.