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No. 3

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By David Halbrook
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TRACS Grants Accreditation

The Accreditation Commission of the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) awarded Patrick Henry College (PHC) official accreditation status on April 17, 2007, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Patrick Henry College / Art Cox
When PHC students heard the good news about the TRACS accreditation, they celebrated by posting a makeshift sign at the front entrance of the college (currently under construction.)

“I glory in the Lord and His provision for Patrick Henry College,” said PHC President Graham Walker. “The Lord has allowed us to receive validation from a federally recognized accrediting agency, affirming the integrity of our mission and how we’re carrying it out.”

The College’s rating as a formally accredited Christian academic institution culminates PHC’s four-year “candidacy status” with TRACS, and “positions the College for future growth and success,” noted President Walker.

The PHC contingent of President Walker, Provost Gene Edward Veith, Dean of Institutional Assessment Laura McCollum, and Chancellor Michael Farris testified before the commission for approximately 45 minutes at the Founders Inn and Conference Center, describing recent leadership changes, new governance protocols, and policies related to self-assessment and faculty empowerment. After questions, the group was asked to step out of the boardroom. Five minutes later, the commission called them back in, where TRACS Commission Chairman Boyd C. Rist announced, “We are pleased to grant Patrick Henry College accreditation with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.”

Immediately afterward, an elated Dr. Walker celebrated with the rest of the PHC team in the lobby outside of the boardroom.

“It was rigorous,” he said. “We were being held to very high and detailed standards. They wanted us to prove that we were good enough to earn accreditation, which is a privilege, not a right,” he added, noting that, “unlike the vast majority of colleges and universities, PHC did not seek accreditation in order to qualify for federal funding, but rather to submit itself to peer review and professional accountability.”

Toward the end of the meeting, one commission member called upon Dr. Farris and asked him to describe his transition from president to chancellor.

“I wholeheartedly affirm Dr. Walker and his leadership of the College,” Dr. Farris told the commission. “My role gives me the freedom to promote and develop the College in ways that I’m thrilled to undertake.”

For Provost Gene Edward Veith, who has devoted much of his career in higher education to the type of rigorous classical learning offered at PHC, the announcement was doubly satisfying. “It has been such a long process, and so much work went into it,” he said. “There’s just so much at stake, and the outcome, in spite of everything we did, wasn’t certain until we received the announcement. It is such a relief, such a joy, that TRACS gave us a good report.”

Dr. Veith observed that the commission seemed especially focused on the College’s efforts to ensure the quality and integrity of its unique apprenticeship program, as well as in its implementation of sound self-assessment tools.

“I think they saw that, through all of the changes we’ve implemented in the past year, we are effectively assessing every level of the College and making changes where they need to be made,” Dr. Veith explained. “In a healthy institution, that’s how it functions. We proved to TRACS that we were serious about assessing and critiquing ourselves.”

The TRACS recognition will be in place for a five-year period, with the College expected to provide periodic progress reports. The five-year accreditation period is standard for all colleges and universities granted TRACS accreditation.

In conclusion, President Walker noted, “We’re so grateful for all that Michael Farris did to establish the College and make this day possible. I am also thankful to our Provost, Dr. Veith, Dean of Institutional Assessment, Dr. McCollum, our Assessment Coordinator, Naomi Harralson, and all faculty and staff who worked so hard to achieve this result.”

“This puts in place a foundation upon which all of us at Patrick Henry College can continue to grow and build on some wonderful things,” Dr. Walker added. “There are people, students, and supporters who agree with us and support our mission, but who may have been standing on the sidelines and waiting. Hopefully, they can now see that Patrick Henry College is worth investing in, and can join us.”

PHC Moot Court and Debate Teams Continue to Win

By David Halbrook

Crowning another season of forensic excellence and continuity, Patrick Henry College’s championship moot court and debate teams upheld the school’s mounting reputation as an incubator for national class speakers and orators.

Patrick Henry College
PHC moot court team at the ACMA 2007 National Tournament, with coach Michael Farris and PHC Trustee Janet Ashcroft.

In January 2007, PHC’s two-time national champion moot court team capped a stellar season with a stunning performance at the American Collegiate Moot Court Association (ACMA) 2007 National Tournament in Virginia Beach. This year’s case deliberated presidential authority under Article II of the U.S. Constitution to conduct warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

While falling just short of “three-peating” in its bid to secure an unprecedented, third consecutive national title, PHC qualified more teams and took home more trophies than any other college—for the fifth straight year. PHC advanced all eight of its moot court teams into the weekend’s final rounds (only one other college qualified more than one team), earning third place team honors while capturing every top individual speaker and brief-writing award. In 2006, the College defended its 2005 national title, setting an ACMA record by sweeping first, second, and third place honors, a feat that had never been accomplished in the ACMA’s seven-year history.

Following on its moot court success, PHC’s debate team erupted with impressive performances at National Education Debate Association (NEDA) tournaments in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The team earned first place team and first place overall club awards at all three events. In the season’s finale at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PHC took home first place in all three divisions and swept the top five places in the intense Crossfire Division.

According to PHC Chancellor (and moot court coach) Michael Farris, “the college is indeed blessed to field teams of quality students trained in disciplines that so purposefully express and practically apply PHC’s mission. As our moot court and debate teams dramatically attest, PHC students are being trained to impact the public square.”

About the author

David Halbrook is director of communications at Patrick Henry College.