UM: Smooth Sailing With Latest Accreditation Review

August 14, 2017

MISSOULA – The University of Montana has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities since 1932. The commission recently gave UM high marks during the culmination of its latest seven-year review by renewing the University’s accreditation with no recommendations.

UM's Main Hall with the M and Mount Sentinel

“It’s unusual to have accreditation reaffirmed with no recommendations,” said Nathan Lindsay, the UM associate provost for dynamic learning who spearheaded accreditation efforts.   “The many people who worked on this report have been delighted with the positive feedback we received.”

Not only did UM get a positive review, it also participated in a unique demonstration project focused on connecting student learning to mission fulfillment. Lindsay said the project likely will influence the template for such reviews going forward among the more than 160 NWCCU member institutions in the Northwest region.

UM was one of four institutions to complete the demonstration project. The others were the University of Oregon, the University of Puget Sound and Columbia Basin College. Lindsay led the overall demonstration project this past year and consulted with the other three institutions.

“It takes a collective effort to earn accreditation at a major university,” UM President Sheila Stearns said. “There were multiple authors here at UM, with participation from many offices, faculty members and staff members. It takes a village to analyze and respond to all the data that were presented. We couldn’t be more proud of the collective team effort it took to achieve this positive result.”

NWCCU originally reviewed institutions every 10 years, but this period was shortened to seven years with three reporting periods in recent times. Accreditation requires reports at the end of years one, three and seven. UM’s year-one report next year will focus on its new strategic vision.

In a July 2017 letter, the commission lauded Lindsay and former UM President Royce Engstrom for ensuring that UM “engaged in an intensive, deliberative evaluation process aimed at identifying meaningful and valuable means of focusing on the assessment of student learning outcomes in a complex, multifaceted research university.”

NWCCU reviewers commended UM for integrating student-learning outcomes into mission fulfillment and boosting its planning and assessment processes. The commission also hailed efforts to develop and culture of learning and assessment, building upon the efforts of faculty members who were early adopters of new processes.

“Further, the commission applauds the University for developing a culture of transparency and effective communication as individuals shared assessment results and information across campus,” the letter from NWCCU commission President Sandra Elman said.

To view the demonstration project’s seven-year report, visit To see the NWCCU letter reaffirming accreditation, visit For more about UM accreditation in general, visit


Contact: Nathan Lindsay, UM associate provost for dynamic learning, 406-243-4689,