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The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation team presented a preliminary report of its findings from a two-day visit at Cal Poly Friday morning.

Administrators, faculty and staff filled the first several rows of Phillips Hall to hear what team leader Sam Smith, president emeritus from Washington University, had to say about the recommendations the team will make to the WASC commission for universities.

Smith said the team found the university is achieving its objectives overall, but had room for improvement in several areas. He said the school needs to better define the “polytechnic identity” it holds, learn more from its students and look toward modern technology to support the “learn by doing” atmosphere.

Smith said the team considered the current atmosphere at the college related to financial concerns and a retiring president.

“Cal Poly is an already unique institution going through many changes during a unique time in the CSU system,” he said.

Smith said it is unlikely financial pressures will end any time soon and the school will need to “explore additional options to find funding.” He said that might include alumni donations and additional grants because the CSU system has not supported student college-based fee increases.

Smith said the team found a great resource among the students they spoke with. He said the school has a group of bright students who care about their education.

WASC team member Beverly Buckles, dean of the school of science and technology at Loma Linda University, said the full report won’t be available for some time.

“We’re the eyes and ears of WASC.  We’re here to collect information and verify the self-study,” Buckles said.  She said the school is on track to continue with the process of accreditation.

Smith and Buckley said they were impressed with Cal Poly students and the openness everyone showed in speaking with them about the issues concerning education at the school. The visit was part of the second phase of the accrediting process with the association.

The report from the visit will determine if the Cal Poly WASC steering committee needs to adjust its plans for the next phase of accreditation, co-chair David Conn said. The committee has already begun the next phase.

Conn said he didn’t find anything surprising about the team’s early report. His fellow chair Bruno Giberti said the visit was a flurry of meetings. He said it went well and confirmed what the committee already feels good about.

“It was like a group blind date, but we were happy with what they had to say,” Giberti said.

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