Spotlight: Katie Bash

Spotlight: Katie Bash

...leads Graceland to a successful recommendation from the Higher Learning Commission.

Working with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is one of Dr. Katie Bash’s fortes.

Ten years ago, she successfully led Graceland’s HLC review and received a top endorsement: a recommendation for 10 more years of accreditation. Through painstaking detail, she has again led the university through the accreditation process, unearthing Graceland’s true and worthy attributes — resulting in another top endorsement.

The HLC evaluation team found Graceland to be a learning community where students develop their potential for meaningful and productive lives – Graceland is living out its stated mission and is a viable financial institution planning for the future. This stellar review comes in no small part from the relentless work Bash has tended over several years.

“President John Sellars knew we needed strategic planning with a committee for program review,” Bash said, “and he appointed me to the job.”

Over the last eight years, “the doctors” Katie and her husband, Lee, (both hold PhDs in higher education) have worked with Graceland committees to develop a model that is integrated, timing things to alleviate repetition and to align budgeting with strategic planning. They cultivated the work of the faculty and a task force into an equitable program-prioritization process that provides a numeric measure of effectiveness with direction for improvements.

“I'VE BEEN DOCUMENTING GRACELAND'S STORY FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS. BEING IN THIS POSITION, I'VE BEEN ABLE TO SEE INTO EACH DEPARTMENT AND HELP THEM WITH PROGRAM REVIEWS. I'VE DOCUMENTED THE DEVOTED COMMITMENT FROM GRACELAND'S EMPLOYEES — COACHES, FACULTY, ADMINISTRATION AND STAFF.”

The resulting rubric balances seven factors that the people of Graceland believe are vital to instutional success and culminates with a score for each program. “People can then know what they need to work on for improvement,” explained Bash. “Qualitative and quantitative review gives everyone a voice. The program review becomes a consultable record.” Leading institutional effectiveness with dedication and experience, Bash assures that Graceland is in good hands and will continue to make a difference in students’ lives for years to come.


The Bashes are writing a book about their insights, processes and tools. Together, they have been involved with HLC reviews for several years. In April, they presented at the HLC conference on their focused topic: Integrating Institutional Effectiveness. The presentation included their research and Graceland’s process for a successful HLC recommendation.

The Bash doctors have insight, experience and initiative to consult their colleagues on the necessary integration of program review and strategic planning. Their book will include practical tools to help colleges wade through the HLC process. Designed in a way that will bring individual ownership toward the improvement of each university, their process and tools provide an answer for a particular niche in higher education.

“At the HLC conference, we talked about the five aspects of institutional effectiveness: assessment, program review, resource allocation, strategic planning and institutional research. What they were most interested in was the specifics,” Bash remarked. “Program prioritization is a hot topic for colleges, and the rubric gives them an organized way to do something painful – measure and then make strategic cuts. Everyone has to figure out a way to cut back and be more effective. Graceland’s experience can help others.”