How to Become a Site Visitor

COPRA, the peer review accrediting body, is always looking to train new site visitors! Whether you are an academic or a practitioner in the public service field, we would be happy to include you in our pool of visitors. To become a NASPAA Site Visitor, every volunteer must:

  • Watch all Site Visitor training videos
  • Attend a site visitor training, either in-person or online
  • Email NASPAA staff current CV or resume
  • Match with a program and perform a conflict of interest check
  • Review Official Documents: NASPAA Standards, Self-Study Instructions, Policy Statements, Site Visitor Manual
  • Read all Program Materials: Self-Study Report, Interim Report, and Interim Report Response
For more detailed information about becoming a NASPAA Site Visitor, keep reading!

Qualifications

Each site visit team consists of three members:

  1. Chair: someone who has previously served on at least two visits and who has a strong understanding of the Standards and the site visit process.
  2. Academic: associate professor or above from a NASPAA accredited program with expertise in an area that aligns with the program or its mission.
  3. Practitioner: someone who has 7+ years of experience in the field of public service and whose area of expertise fits with the program’s mission and a MPA, MPP, or similar graduate degree.

Training

Every NASPAA Site Visitor must complete an official NASPAA training session: either in-person or online. Training sessions are offered throughout the year, often as a workshop in conjunction with peer conferences, as well as annually at the NASPAA Accreditation Institute. Prior to any training, interested site visitors should watch the series of Training Videos, which orient trainees to the accreditation process, the NASPAA Standards, and the role of the site visit. Training should be renewed every five years.

Matching

Every site visit team is matched to a cohort program based on several factors, including expertise, meaning not every trained site visitor is matched every spring. Site Visitors are contacted by NASPAA staff in the late fall, with a proposed program match, to perform a conflict of interest check. Once teams are confirmed, the logistical process begins.

The Site Visit

Site Visits occur each spring, between January and March, and typically last two and a half days. A sample schedule is available in the Site Visit Manual. Programs and teams work together to finalize all logistical details: the schedule, travel, on the ground meetings, and overall expectations. The site visit chair has final say over the details of the visit.

Preparation

Prior to every site visit, site visitors are responsible for updating themselves on current NASPAA documents and policies, as well as thoroughly reviewing program documents. Preparation is key to a successful site visit, and site visitors should take care to review all documents and strategize well before the visit. The Site Visit Manual provides extensive information about each aspect of the visit. In general, visitors should become familiar with a program’s Self-Study Report, Interim Report, Interim Report Response, and any supplementary documents — all of which can be found in the NASPAA Data Center — to which site visitors are given access ahead of the visit. The chair of the site visit team is not only responsible for liaising with the program to coordinate the site visit, but for guiding team members throughout the preparation process. 

Site Visit

On the ground, site visitors will meet with program stakeholders, including faculty, students, alumni, and university administrators, as well as review pertinent program documents, including those related to program evaluation. Directed by the questions in the Interim Report, the site visit team is responsible for learning more about the program in order to relay evidence to COPRA for its final accreditation decision. Site Visitors do not speak for COPRA, nor can they pass any judgment on the program. The Site Visit Manual provides a sample schedule, as well as important documents to review and helpful tips on how to interview program stakeholders.

Site Visit Report

Each team is responsible for preparing a site visit report within 30 days of the visit. The report, which constitutes one piece of a program’s accreditation portfolio, is a collection of the evidence found on the ground, especially with regard to items cited by COPRA in the Interim Report. The team should take great care to make no judgments of the program, but to provide the evidence COPRA needs to make a full evaluation of the program, linking every detail to a specific Standard. The Site Visit Manual provides guidance on how to draft the report.

The program has the opportunity to review and suggest factual edits to the report (within 14 days of the draft report), but the final product is the discretion of the team alone. The report is drafted, reviewed, and finalized in the NASPAA Data Center.

Expenses

For any and all expenses incurred by the site visitor (travel, lodging, food), each team member is responsible for submitting for reimbursement directly from NASPAA. Programs may not reimburse site visitors directly. For more information, click here.

 

Have questions? Click here!