December 2019 News from CEA

Message from Richard McDorman, 2019 Commission Chair

2019 was a year of both stability and change for CEA. As we celebrated CEA’s twentieth year, I was delighted to see so many friends of CEA and colleagues in the field at our anniversary receptions held at TESOL in Atlanta and the EnglishUSA IEP Stakeholders Conference in Washington, D.C. I would like to personally thank all those who took the time to participate in these events, as well as our third reception held at the CEA offices in Alexandria, which I was unable to attend but which Commissioner Sherif Barsoum so ably officiated. This year CEA also selected its new Executive Director, Heidi Vellenga, PhD, who will assume the duties of that office on February 1 of next year as outgoing Executive Director Mary Reeves, PhD, begins a very well-deserved retirement. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Mary and Heidi, as well as the entire CEA staff, for their extraordinary collegiality, cooperation and skill as I have worked with them during these past four years as a Commissioner and this past year in particular as Chair. CEA and its constituents are extremely fortunate to have such an excellent team of professionals guiding the agency, which is a great benefit to accredited sites as well as the field at large.

As my year as Chair of the Commission comes to an end, I would also like to thank my Commission colleagues for their commitment to service and carrying out CEA’s mission and values, along with the dozens of volunteer peer reviewers without whose work and dedication CEA would not be able to operate as a high-functioning specialized accreditor. CEA accredits a wide variety of types of programs and institutions, both in the United States and abroad. While CEA’s constituents are indeed extremely diverse, both academically and geographically, they all share the same commitment to upholding the CEA Standards, which unite CEA’s nearly 350 accredited sites in a common goal of achieving excellence in the field of English language teaching and administration.

I echo the sentiments of the Commission Chairs who have come before me when I say that serving as Chair has been the most rewarding and significant experience of my professional career. It has been a great honor and privilege to lead the Commission this past year, and I look forward to watching CEA and the sites it accredits continue to thrive in the years to come.

Richard McDorman
2019 Commission Chair

Recent accreditation decisions
The Commission met December 6 – 8, 2019 to make accreditation decisions and conduct other CEA business.  Accreditation decisions are announced on the CEA website under “Recent Decisions” within 30 days of each meeting. In addition, below I’ve provided information about other 2019 Commission actions and matters. Please contact Mary Reeves, CEA’s Executive Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions you may have about the announcements, activities, and Commission actions I’ve described below.

Heidi Vellenga appointed as CEA’s next Executive Director
I am extremely pleased to announce that we have identified CEA’s next Executive Director:  Heidi Vellenga, PhD. In a thorough search conducted by an independent Search Committee, Heidi was advanced to the position with strong support from the committee and Commission. Heidi is imminently qualified for the position of leading the field’s specialized accreditation agency, as she holds a doctorate in applied linguistics, has served many years teaching and administering a variety of types of intensive English programs before joining the CEA staff in 2014, and since then has built a detailed knowledge of CEA’s practices and accredited sites as CEA’s current Associate Director.  CEA carefully and methodically plans for the future, and Heidi’s appointment brings continuity and stability as Mary Reeves, CEA’s current Executive Director, retires from CEA.  Heidi will lead and be supported by CEA’s strong, experienced staff, ensuring that the transition in leadership goes smoothly, with no disruptions in accreditation operations, services to accredited and applicant sites, or other CEA activities. 

2020 Officers
CEA’s officers are elected from among current Commission members. The Commission has elected Connie Lee as 2020 chair-elect (and to subsequently serve as 2021 chair), and Louise Gobron as 2020 treasurer.  They will join Susan Carkin, CEA’s 2020 chair, and Mary Reeves (and then Heidi Vellenga), CEA’s Executive Director who serves as secretary, to comprise CEA’s 2020 Executive Committee.

New Commissioners elected for 2020
We welcome four commissioners to serve 2020 – 2022 terms:  Nadine Baladi, Connie Lee, Sheryl Meyer, and Anna Modzelewska.  Commissioners are identified by the CEA Nominating Committee, which is charged with ensuring that the Commission profile maintains a balance of domains of expertise, types of experiences, and range of perspectives, as well as a mix of administrators and academics/educators/practitioners, from year to year. The Nominating Committee conducts a detailed process of soliciting applications, interviewing candidates and references, and determining the slate each year, which the Constituent Council then votes on in September – October each year.  This year, it is notable that two current commissioners were elected to a second term, as allowed by CEA’s policies; their election will support CEA’s continuity in 2020 as Heidi Vellenga becomes CEA’s Executive Director.  The 2020 Call for Nominations for commissioner applicants will be published March 1, 2020. 

20th anniversary activities
CEA concluded a year’s recognition of CEA’s 20th anniversary with a third reception, held at the conclusion of the EnglishUSA Stakeholders Conference in Washington DC.  In a short program we recognized those present who have been part of CEA’s growth, including past and present commissioners, volunteer peer site reviewers, CEA site representatives, staff, and others who have supported CEA’s work since 1999.  Two previous receptions were held at TESOL in Atlanta and at the CEA offices following NAFSA’s annual conference.  CEA is in the process of carrying out a study of the benefits of self-study and accreditation, with preliminary results having been debuted at the TESOL Convention and final results to be announced in early 2020.

2020 Standards Review
CEA reviews a subset of the 44 standards every year. This year, the 2019 Standards Review Committee reviewed the standards areas of Curriculum, Length and Structure of Program of Study, and Student Achievement, as well as relevant Glossary items. The committee’s findings will be passed on to next year’s SRC as part of the complete review of the CEA Standards as a whole, which is to be carried out in 2020. The full standards review takes place at least once every 10 years per CEA policies. The last complete review occurred in 2009 and 2010. As part of the process, the committee has developed a survey to gather data from multiple sources to be incorporated into the 2020 review activities. In order to obtain information about the relevance and clarity of the current standards, CEA will conduct a constituent and field-wide survey. Information about the overall project and relevant timelines will appear on the CEA website, along with a link to the survey. The committee plans to distribute the survey link to the Constituent Council, professional organizations, and other stakeholders in December, with an initial response deadline of January 21, 2020. Comments about the CEA Standards or the 2020 review can be directed to Heidi Vellenga, SRC Staff Liaison, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

2020 Annual Constituent Council Meeting
CEA holds an annual business meeting in keeping with its status as a Virginia corporation. The meeting, which is delivered virtually, will be held on Thursday, June 11, 2020.  Members of the Constituent Council, comprised of CEA’s accredited sites, will receive formal notice of meeting matters 60 days prior, along with specific instructions for joining the meeting.  Questions about the meeting should be directed to Mary Reeves, CEA’s Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Heidi Vellenga, CEA’s incoming Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Other Commission activities
Annual Report notices for 2020 were distributed to accredited sites in early December 2019, with a due date of February 15, 2020. CEA’s accreditation process manager, Rachel Herman, has initiated a pilot project to move the Annual Report process into a fully online submission. The online pilot, if successful, will result in numerous efficiencies for future Annual Report submissions.

CEA secured the registration of three certification marks (“CEA,” the CEA logo with blue checkmark, and the CEA logo with the text “Leading by Advancing Standards”) from the U.S. Patent and Trade Office. The logo with the registration indicator has been distributed to accredited sites for use in the sites’ public postings and materials.

The CEA Policies and Procedures Manual is available to the public at the CEA website.  Each year the Commission reviews the manual, editing it if needed.  For January 2020 publication, no policies were changed. The Commission approved several non-substantive language changes to the manual addressing the procedure for a site to reapply following denial and the constitution of committee membership.

The Commission engages in regular professional development, holding at each Commission meeting a session that will enhance commissioners’ knowledge related to their Commission responsibilities and thus build depth of expertise related to accreditation, non-profit association governance, and other matters relevant to CEA’s environment.  At the December meeting, the Commission’s special guests were Herman Bounds, Jr., the Director of the USDE Accreditation Group and Mike Stein, CEA’s staff analyst assigned by USDE. 

At each December meeting the Commission reviews and approves CEA’s budget for the coming year.  The 2020 budget reflects CEA’s stable financial position, which is presented in full to the Constituent Council at the June annual business meeting.  As announced in August, no fees have increased for 2020.