April 2020 News from CEA

Message from Susan Carkin, 2020 Commission Chair
Greetings on behalf of CEA. I’m honored to be CEA’s chair for what has started out as quite a challenging year. I have the further honor of working with CEA’s new Executive Director, Heidi Vellenga, PhD, who served CEA as Associate Director for the past five years. Heidi’s deep experience and knowledge of CEA operations have permitted a relatively seamless transition to the new year and ongoing work. CEA’s previous Executive Director, Dr. Mary Reeves, has agreed to stay involved part-time in 2020 as Executive Advisor to support CEA and ensure a smooth transition, as planned.

CEA’s regular April meeting was held virtually on its scheduled dates, April 4 - 6, after a brief sound check and practice session with CEA tech support the night before the meeting. The Zoom platform afforded us some new ways of working while also ensuring security of documents and discussion. The Commission accomplished its planned work: annual orientation of the full Commission, accreditation decisions, professional development sessions, committee meetings, and the range of reports and updates that are delivered in every meeting. For the August meeting, the Commission has tentative plans for commissioners to be present in Alexandria, but we will remain attentive to the status of the virus and the potential risks to all involved.

Further below you’ll find a summary of CEA’s work, but I want to highlight one development reflecting CEA’s commitment to monitor developments in the field and adjust accreditation practices if warranted. At the April meeting, I presented a 2020 Scope Task Force charge to the Commission. CEA analyses reveal trends of a range of reconfigurations among English language programs and institutions as they work to manage market demands as well as institutional and demographic realities. The Task Force will review CEA’s scope and eligibility criteria to determine if changes are needed to meet the changing needs of the field. The Scope Task Force has been struck and will convene the first meeting in early May. Outcomes of the work of the Task Force will be reported to constituents and the field when available.

On a final note, I encourage you to consider the 2021-23 Call for Nominations. CEA commissioners have responsibilities in two important areas: as the accreditation decision-making body and as the governing body of CEA as a nonprofit corporation. Commissioner qualifications are outlined in the call, and the current call encourages applicants with community college experience or those who have jobs which involve at least 50% teaching. We invite you to put yourself forward or encourage others to apply to join us in serving the field and helping CEA achieve its mission.

Susan Carkin, PhD
2020 Commission Chair

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Heidi Vellenga, PhD, Appointed CEA Executive Director

HV Portrait Jan 13 2020The CEA Executive Committee is pleased to announce the selection of Heidi Vellenga, PhD, as CEA’s next Executive Director. Dr. Vellenga will assume her responsibilities on February 1, 2020, following Dr. Mary Reeves’s retirement from the position.

Richard McDorman, CEA’s 2019 Commission Chair, led the Executive Director transition process. He described the careful process undertaken to identify Dr. Vellenga for the position, noting that that CEA strives to operate in accordance with best practices as an organization: “When Dr. Reeves announced her retirement, the Commission assessed CEA’s needs for the future and then established an independent search committee to identify the best candidate to lead CEA for that future. The search committee carried out a robust process that resulted in Dr. Vellenga’s selection. We’re extremely grateful for the work of the search committee, and pleased that Heidi accepted the position.” Dr. Vellenga is currently CEA’s associate director, providing important continuity to CEA’s operations during the executive director transition period. In addition, Dr. Vellenga’s appointment ensures continuity of CEA’s approach to accreditation – ensuring that accredited sites are in compliance with standards while doing so through a strong commitment to continuous improvement. Dr. Susan Carkin, CEA’s 2020 Commission Chair, remarked that “under Heidi’s leadership, CEA is positioned to continue to function well as a specialized accreditor for our English language teaching and learning field. She holds appropriate degrees in the field and is highly knowledgeable about the full range of practices as well as trends in the field. In addition, Heidi understands what is necessary for CEA to operate as an excellent accreditation agency, having been engaged with CEA, the accreditation arena, and the US Department of Education over the last 5 years as CEA’s associate director.” 

Dr. Heidi Vellenga holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics and a MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL. She has taught in and directed intensive English programs overseas and in the US. Her numerous professional service positions include a term as Vice President for Standards for EnglishUSA, leadership roles in TESOL affiliate chapters, and current service on the TESOL Journal Editorial Board and as the Chair for the Spring Professional Development Committee of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA). Dr. Vellenga has been on the CEA staff since 2014 and, in this capacity, supports the work of the Commission through overseeing the accreditation process, serving as CEA’s regulatory expert, managing the review of standards as well as leading accreditation workshops and representing staff on review teams during site visits. Dr. Vellenga regularly speaks in professional settings and at conferences on CEA matters, accreditation, and various quality assurance topics.

CEA has just concluded 20 years of accreditation and leadership in the field. With Dr. Vellenga’s appointment, CEA is now well-prepared to address the future. As Dr. Vellenga commented: “As CEA begins a new chapter in accreditation operations, I look forward to continuing CEA’s excellent work in specialized accreditation of intensive English language programs and institutions. In leading the agency into the future, I look forward to the cooperation of the Commission, the Constituent Council, my staff colleagues, and the many trained peer reviewers who make it possible for CEA to achieve its mission. As an agency formed by the field, CEA must continue to effectively balance its commitment to promoting continuous improvement through the advancement of widely-held standards with its responsibility to ensure compliance with the standards. CEA, as a mission-based accreditation agency, has a unique role and its future activities will continue to respect the diversity of our accredited programs and institutions, be responsive to the needs of sites, all while raising the level of quality in the field.”