University of Western States Earns 2023 Beacon Award for Excellence in Student Achievement and Success from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities 

University’s Lead Role in Innovative Benchmarking Consortium Expected to Yield Greater Student Retention and Graduation Rates 

University of Western States (UWS) has received the 2023 Beacon Award for Excellence in student achievement and success from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). The award was given in recognition of the lead role Rachael Pandzik, D.C., and Susan Donoff, Ph.D., of UWS took to create a regional benchmarking program that uses comparative data from a consortium of NWCCU accredited institutions to identify gaps in institutional outcomes and inform student success initiatives. 

“Graduate programs do not have ready access to comparative data from like institutions, so this effort greatly helps UWS and our peer institutions implement changes to more effectively champion student success,” said UWS President Joseph Brimhall, D.C. “The academic and professional success of our students is the foundational goal of our university, and I’m tremendously proud of the faculty and staff members who have been involved in this effort.” 

Today, the consortium consists of six graduate-level health science institutions that track and share retention and graduation rates. The data gleaned from the first year of the project is publicly available on the UWS website and will continue to grow in value as subsequent years of data are collected and shared. 

At UWS, the peer benchmark data is utilized as part of the annual university appraisal process. A dedicated committee analyzes the data to identify opportunities to improve institutional outcomes and develop strategies to address student needs. 

“The Beacon Award recognizes institutional and programmatic accomplishments in student achievement and success. Winners must demonstrate distinctive, measurable and replicable innovations with clear results,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, President of NWCCU. “The regional benchmarking program and work of UWS is a living embodiment of what the award is meant to celebrate.” 

The Beacon Award was announced at the NWCCU Annual Conference Awards Luncheon on November 9, 2023. In addition to the award, UWS will receive $2,500 from NWCCU to support the university’s continued efforts to foster student success. 

About University of Western States 

University of Western States (UWS) is an independent nonprofit university accredited both institutionally and programmatically and known for its renowned programs in the areas of chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, functional medicine, nutrition, sports medicine, sport and performance psychology, and clinical mental health counseling. Founded in 1904 in Portland, Oregon, the university hosts the second-oldest chiropractic program in the world. UWS is part of The Community Solution Education System, an integrated, nonprofit system of colleges and universities working collaboratively to increase student success and enhance community impact. To learn more, visit and