Howard Community College (HCC), located in Columbia, has added two new accreditations in recent months and is working toward a third, enhancing the prestige of its Center for Hospitality and Culinary Studies and the college’s Health Sciences Division.
On Dec. 31, 2013, the American Culinary Federation (ACF) granted three-year accreditation for two Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees at HCC, one in Culinary Management and one in Culinary Management – Baking and Pastries.
HCC also received seven-year accreditation for its Hospitality Management program from the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).
“There are only 15 hospitality and culinary programs that have both accreditations,” said Vinnie Rege, director of HCC’s Hospitality and Culinary Management Program. “It’s extremely prestigious, and we’re extremely proud of that.”
Years of Preparation
According to Rege, it took about two years of preparation to position the culinary and hospitality programs for accreditation.
“There’s a self-evaluation process we have to go through, identifying strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “The focus was on our competencies, correcting any deficiencies that we found and shoring up any shortcomings to make sure we are accountable and creditable for the industry.”
The ACF and ACPHA then conducted their own two-day program evaluations.
“They shred our curriculum and speak with students, instructors, staff members and people across the campus, cross-checking everything we say,” Rege said. “The ACF’s Education Foundation Accrediting Commission (ACFEFAC) is comprised of top-notch industry chefs who want to see if we’re good enough to meet their standards.”
According to the ACF web site, accreditation creates public trust by ensuring adherence to established standards, accountability and creditability, a high level of professionalism and up-to-date and current practices.
Students graduating from the accredited programs will be eligible for two ACF certificates, one in Baking and Pastries and one in Professional Cooking.
“It’s extremely beneficial for these students and gives them an advantage when they seek employment in a competitive culinary workforce,” Rege said.
Additionally, the ACFEF accreditation acts as a third-party endorser for any federal funding that the college may seek.
“It’s also helpful in our challenge to seek funding from private sources,” he added.
Hospitality management students at HCC receive training in the fundamentals of business management, economics, marketing, accounting and other related areas.
“We make sure they are well-rounded graduates who are not just exposed to one area,” Rege said. “Hospitality is a global industry, and they need to have a global perspective.”
ACPHA’s accreditation “proves we’re one of the top-notch colleges in the country,” Rege noted. “All hospitality management students will be graduating as Certified Hospitality Graduates through ACPHA.”
Accreditation involves the college in an ongoing evaluation process, requiring program managers to file an annual progress report to maintain good standing.
“Our programs were already doing well in terms of enrollment,” Rege said. “Accreditation will take us to the next level, being able to retain some of the county residents who were going out of county or out of state to find an accredited program. It was also helpful to streamline the process, to make it more meaningful for students and help us become a more data-driven center.”
Since moving into its new building, HCC’s Health Sciences Division has launched three new programs and soon will add a fourth.
“We’ve added programs for Physical Therapist Assistant, Medical Laboratory Technician and Diagnostic Medical Sonography,” said Georgine Butler, nursing and division chair of the Health Sciences Division.
Currently wending their way through the application process to seek initial accreditation for dental hygienists through the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), HCC officials hope to add this achievement in the next academic year.
HCC will host a two-day site visit by the CODA in March. The commission will accept comments pertaining to the standards relative to this program from the general public and communities of interest for 60 days after the visit.
“We are on target to have a total of eight programs in our division, and enrollment in all of the programs is healthy,” Butler said. “The new programs are special in that they allow students to enter the workforce directly and make a decent wage. They are good career options.”
The programs are also targeting a chronic deficiency in the health care workforce.
“We’ve been able to look at what the region needs and take the steps to help provide these services,” she explained.
Grants and Partnerships
Recent grant funding has helped the Health Sciences Division increase nursing graduates and graduate nurse retention through its licensed practical nursing pathway sequence, and also has helped with simulation.
“We are able to simulate a true hospital setting, giving students a realistic look at what it means to be a health professional in the real world,” Butler said. “It’s done in a safe environment and is quite a rich experience.”
Additionally, HCC is seeking partnerships with four-year educational institutions in order to expand the possibilities for its students. “We’ve entered into a few discussions, but we don’t have anything solid to report at this time,” Butler acknowledged.
Partnerships are critical, she observed, particularly those undertaken with private industry.
“We’re very grateful to have partnerships with physicians offices, dentists and laboratories in the Baltimore Metropolitan area,” she said.