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Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

Step 2: External Review




In Step 2 of the program review process the department nominates experienced faculty scholars and peers from within respective fields and from peer institutions to serve on an External Review Team. This external peer group will review the Self-Study report and participate in a two-day on-site campus visit. This phase of the process is an opportunity for programs to dialogue with external peer colleagues and review any strengths, challenges, or areas for growth within the program.

Following the on-site visit, the reviewers submit a summary of their findings and recommendations. The department then has an opportunity to composes a written response to these findings. The Program Response is submitted to the Office of the Provost who then prepares 1). a response to the external review report and 2). a response to the program’s response report.

Nomination and Selection of External Review Team


The department under review submits a prioritized list of five to six proposed reviewers that cover the areas of expertise within the field and that have the knowledge and experience to provide a thorough and fair assessment of the program(s). Department chairs and directors are encouraged to include all faculty in the selection and/or review of the nominee list. This gives each department member the opportunity to share in the selection process as well as identify any potential conflicts of interest.

The final nominations list is forwarded to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE). The Provost then selects one or two of the nominated individuals and another member to comprise the final three-member review team.

OIE will contact the external reviewers and arrange for the team’s two-day Onsite visit. During an orientation call, the chair of the team is selected. Prior to this campus visit, the Office of the Provost sends the Self Study document along with other relevant college documents, such as the catalog, to the reviewers.

The list of nominations should include contact information, a CV or link to the CV (if possible), and a brief biographical sketch or information supporting each candidates’ qualifications as an external reviewer for the program. Any potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed and discussed.


When nominating reviewers, consider scholars that have:

  • a history of involvement and success in scholarship or research as well as experience in undergraduate teaching in the program field;
  • broad knowledge of the discipline as a whole and representative of the major subfields within the discipline as appropriate;
  • widely acknowledged national and/or international eminence and are also noted for good judgment and objectivity;
  • a mix of public and private higher educational experience at similar sized liberal arts colleges at least comparable to that of Spelman College.
Each department should complete and submit the External Review Team Nominations Form generally by October 15 for all review periods.

Download the External Review Team Nominations Form


External Review Team Nomination FAQ

Do the external reviewers need to be academic faculty? Can they be administrators or hold leadership positions within or outside of higher education?

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The external reviewers can be administrators or hold leadership positions within or outside of higher education, but they must have faculty/instructional experience within the field and at a level comparable to that offered at Spelman College

If external reviewers must be academic faculty, does rank and tenure matter?

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Yes, the nominee must be tenured or have held tenured rank.

Can the nominee be a retired academic or must they be actively working?

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If the nominee is retired, please address this in the information submitted. Include a justification/ rationale regarding the appropriateness of the nomination.

A biographical sketch is required for each nominated reviewer. What type of information should be included, and should this come from the nominee?

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The biographical sketch should include information sufficient to provide an overview of the individual and why you believe they would be a good external reviewer. Information can be drawn from public sources such as websites, LinkedIn, etc. Recommendations should be accompanied by brief statements supporting the choices and stating any current or previous relationship. The statements should include brief bios of the proposed reviewers including their professional/artistic credentials, most recent professional accomplishments, and a summary of their creative activities and scholarly works.

Who would not be considered as an appropriate External Review Team nominee?

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Individuals who have previously served on a program’s External Review Team, former faculty, faculty who were previously recruited, or program alumni are not appropriate external review team nominations.

Does the department contact the external reviewers?

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The Office of the Provost will contact external reviewers and arrange for a team of three to come to campus for an on-site visit.

What criteria might restrict a nominee from participating on the review team?
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In general, any conflict of interest would exclude a nominee from participating on the review team.

The following are examples of potential conflicts of interest. Nominee’s with:

  • close collaborative relationships with a faculty member in the program under review (currently or within the past seven years),
  • prior faculty appointment in the program under review (within the past ten years),
  • associations (organizations, boards, corporations, etc.) that may benefit from a research project that includes faculty from the program under review,
  • associations with a corporation that currently sponsors research projects involving a faculty from the program under review; and/ or,
  • corporate or board associations in which a faculty member from the program under review is also currently a member of the board, a consultant, or has similar conflicts of commitment.
  • A current employee of an Atlanta University Center (AUC) institution.

The On-Site Visit and Exit Interview


Coordination of the site visit is completed in conjunction with the Office of the Provost and Office of Institutional Effectiveness and begins as soon as the review team is selected and a date for the on-site visit is set. The program is responsible for determining the visit schedule and agenda and coordinating the external review team meetings with program faculty and staff (and/or with related departments). These interview style meetings include the department chair, department faculty (full and part-time, tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure, adjunct, and faculty in respective majors or subfields), staff, students and directors of any specialized programs or initiatives within the department. For more details on this process, see the Site Visit Guidelines.

The two-day on-site opens with a Welcome Meeting hosted by the department chair, the Provost and/or the division chair. Department chairs may provide a brief introduction of the program including any areas of focus for the review.  The department may also invite program alumni or community partners. Note: Program leadership is not required to be present at all meetings.

On the second day of the on-site visit, the External Review Team continues any meetings. The day concludes with a close out/exit meeting in which the review team provides an oral report of any preliminary findings to the department chair, the program review committee faculty and representatives from the Office of the Provost and/or the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.


The External Review Team Report


Two-weeks following the exit interview, the External Review Team submits a 10-to-15-page summary report of their findings and recommendations to the Provost who forwards the report to the department chair for distribution to program faculty.

 The report typically includes:

  • An overview of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats faced by the program.
  • Recommendations for the future geared toward improving the overall quality and relevance of the academic program.
  • Prioritized recommendations distinguished between short- and long-term goals.

Review Team Logistics: Travel, Meals and Accommodations


The Office of the Provost provides logistic and financial support including travel, and hotel accommodations, an honorarium, and a per diem for the External Review Team members. Food, beverages and any meals offered to the review team while on campus are coordinated by the program but funded by the Provost. Reviewers are encouraged to arrive the night before the visit and depart late evening of the second day.


Additional Considerations: Virtual Visits


    When scheduling of an on-site visit is impacted by external factors such as public health or weather issues, a virtual site visit is an option. If the program believes a virtual visit is appropriate, communicate with the Provost and the Office of the Institutional Effectiveness early in the planning phase. Previously outlined guidance on selection of the External Review Team is still applicable; however, the virtual visit schedule and timeline may be expanded to accommodate technology requirements and to facilitate online engagement.

    Below are some general considerations when scheduling a virtual site-visit.

    • A virtual site visit schedule and sessions can generally mirror those conducted in person on the college campus.
    • Consider building in an additional day (beyond the standard 2-day on-site visit) and include amble breaks between sessions.
    • Consider time zone differences. If applicable, no session begins before 9am Eastern Time (ET) and later if some evaluators are in the Pacific Time (PT) zone. No sessions end after 6pm ET. Consider other time zone differences if reviewers will be participating from outside of the United States.

    6am PT        7am MT             8am CT                9am ET

    3pm PT       4pm MT              5pm CT                6pm ET

  • Consider breaking for 30-60 minutes at mealtimes, again keeping in mind time zone differences for meals.

  • For Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, consider these options:

    • One meeting link (either Zoom or Teams) for the entire site visit. Turn on the meeting room features.
    • Separate meeting links (either Zoom or Teams) for each session. With this option the “allow participants to join before host” feature may be turned on. This allows the review team to enter the virtual meeting room whenever they are ready.
    • A meeting moderator for each session is required. The moderator will start sessions, assign any co-host responsibilities and monitor the chats.

Contact Us

Institutional Effectiveness
350 Spelman Lane
Box 1516
Atlanta, GA 30314



Spelman College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Spelman College.