Preparing for a Site Visit

The NASPAA Site Visit is a window into the program – its faculty, students, and public service values.

NASPAA Site Visits play an integral role in the accreditation process – giving COPRA on-the-ground insight into each program. Site Visits aim to not only confirm and clarify information provided in the self-study report, but also provide an occasion for the exchange of information among colleagues, for learning about innovative developments responsive to common problems and opportunities in public service education. Site Visits typically occur over two and one half day periods during the spring semester of the accreditation cohort phase. The Site Visit Manual details every aspect of what to expect on a site visit: a sample schedule, potential questions, and documents to prepare. See the Site Visit Preparation Lists for an overview of what to think about when preparing to host (also included in the Site Visit Manual).

Think About Logistics

  • Liaise with NASPAA staff for site visit team member matches.
  • Consult with the team and key university administrators for available dates.
  • Confirm lodging details for team.
  • Determine meeting schedule with Site Visit Chair.
  • Consult COPRA liaison for Interim Report clarifications: what does the site visit team need to clarify?
  • Ensure team access to pertinent program stakeholders and evaluation documents such as admission files, assessment documents, and faculty meeting minutes.

Using the Interim Report, COPRA recommends whether or not a program should proceed to a site visit. Once a program elects to proceed to site visit, NASPAA Staff will contact the program with a proposed site visit team, composed of three members: a Chair, an Academic, and a Practitioner. Visitors are matched based on a combination of programmatic experience (size, governance structure, etc.), academic or professional background, geographical location (to limit travel costs to the program), assessment expertise, and an attempt to ensure that teams have a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Site Visitors are expertly trained to visit programs as the eyes and ears of COPRA, making no judgments or evaluations of conformance, simply gathering and presenting evidence, which can be difficult to fully articulate in the Self-Study Report, to answer COPRA’s questions. 

The program and team members will perform conflict of interest checks before the team is final. Once  finalized, the program will work directly with the team to identify a two and one half day period for the site visit. After the days are confirmed, the program will liaise with the Chair of the Site Visit Team to determine the exact schedule of the visit: who the team needs to meet with on campus, what documents the program will need to review, and the expectations and goals of the visit. Guided by the interim report, Site Visit Teams will at least expect to meet with all program stakeholders: faculty, students, alumni, university administrators, and related staff, as well as review all documents related to program and student assessment. The Site Visit Team Chair has final approval over the schedule.

Programs are responsible for all costs incurred by the site visit team, including travel, however the program may not reimburse the team. NASPAA will invoice the program for the aggregate costs incurred during the visit, after processing reimbursements directly from the team members. Programs are encouraged to consult the Site Visit Manual for specifics regarding travel and lodging of the site visit team. The program typically makes hotel arrangements for the team, taking advantage of university relationships with nearby hotels. It should also provide guidance to the team on travel to the university.

Think Like a Site Visitor

  • Attend a site visitor training.
  • Review the site visit manual.

Thinking like a site visitor is one of the best ways a program can prepare for the site visit. Though the Site Visit Manual is written for site visitors it is a very valuable tool for programs preparing for their own site visit.  A clear appreciation of the Site Visit Team’s procedures, goals, and expectations will make the site visit a smoother undertaking.  The manual outlines: what a typical site visit schedule entails, questions site visitors should ask the program, documents site visitors should review, what should be in (i.e. what to expect from) the Site Visit Report, and the responsibilities that the program has regarding scheduling and travel arrangements. Attending a NASPAA Site Visitor Training can also give programs insight into how site visitors approach visits and what to expect when hosting a site visit. Be sure to take advantage of the knowledge of any trained site visitors on your faculty!

Not sure what a site visit report looks like? Here’s the Site Visit Report Template site visitors complete in the NASPAA Data Center.

Have more questions? Find the answers here.

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