Self-Study (Narrative & Supporting Materials)

To prepare for the review committee's visit, the chair/director should convene the department/program members to write a self-study (usually ten to twenty pages in length) that will be shared with the deans and the review committee.


This narrative should assess the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the department/program and outline a vision for the department/program’s future. It should also consider the place of the department within the context of the larger college community and of this time in history—in particular, its engagement with the college-wide emphasis on inclusive excellence[1] and the need to serve the entirety of the student body. It should provide comprehensive background for the review committee as well as identify key issues for discussion. Typically, a series of meetings is needed to prepare the narrative and to make the best use of the review process. This can begin with a summer working group to discuss the important issues in depth, to review historic data of the department’s/ program’s curriculum and teaching, and to outline the self-study. A draft of the narrative is shared with the associate dean for feedback. The department/program then finalizes the self-study, including the narrative and supporting materials, and submits it to the associate dean, who distributes it to the review committee in advance of the campus visit. The dean’s office also provides the review committee with institutional information, including an institutional preamble, a campus map, and access to the Bowdoin College Catalogue and Academic Handbook.

[1] As stated in the 11/30/2020 email from President Rose and Michael Reed, the current working definition of “inclusive excellence” for Bowdoin College is that developed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and now widely accepted in the academy: 

Making excellence inclusive is thus an active process through which colleges and universities achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and engagement in local and global communities. A high-quality, practical liberal education should be the standard of excellence for all students. The action of making excellence inclusive requires that we uncover inequities in student success, identify effective educational practices, and build such practices organically for sustained institutional change. (From Williams et al., “Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence,” Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2005.) 


The self-study narrative should provide the department/program’s reflections on and examination of: curriculum, pedagogy, student experience, faculty experience, and future vision. Each section should include efforts toward inclusive excellence broadly and toward diversity, equity, and inclusion more specifically. The narrative should be fully informed by the department/program's historic data on course offerings, enrollments, student demographics, revisions to the academic program, etc. and should be written with the review committee as the primary audience in mind.

Supporting Materials

In the course of preparing the self-study narrative, chairs/directors will gather supporting materials from a variety of sources to be provided to the review committee.