The Commission, itself, does not conduct “pre-accreditation” inspections. Although it is not a requirement, the Commission strongly encourages institutions that are not AZA-accredited to have their operations evaluated by an official mentor who is approved and assigned by the Accreditation Commission, prior to submitting an application. The Commission recommends that currently-accredited institutions consider doing the same prior to undergoing the process again when accreditation expires at the end of five-years. [NOTE, currently-accredited institutions: The observations of the mentor often aid the institution in preparing to renew accreditation after five years, but the observations may potentially result in tabling of current accreditation in rare circumstances.] To request assignment of a Commission-approved mentor, the institution should contact AZA accreditation staff.
A Commission-approved mentor is a professional from an AZA-accredited institution who serves regularly as an inspector, is a past or present member of the Accreditation Commission, or an Accreditation Commission Advisor. The Commission-approved mentor is considered by the Accreditation Commission as being particularly well versed in current accreditation standards, expectations, and fundamental AZA philosophies and best practices, and can be consulted throughout the preparation phase. The mentor will be available to the institution by phone throughout the preparation process to provide guidance regarding policies, procedures, agreements, situations, philosophies, and the assembly of the application materials as needed. In addition, it is considered important that the mentor visit the applicant institution for an unofficial inspection at least once, and thereafter as desired by the institution. Following the inspection, the mentor will provide a list identifying all things (including physical facilities and related issues, as well as practices and/or documents) that need work prior to making application, or before the official inspection, as the case may be. Additionally, in the case of first-time applicants, the mentor will provide a professional opinion as to whether the institution is best advised to make application later rather than sooner and, if later, may continue to work with the institution long-term in guiding it to full readiness. Any costs incurred by the mentor (including related travel, accommodations, and meals) are to be reimbursed directly to the mentor by the applicant institution.
Mentors should be requested at least one year prior to submitting an application, and no earlier than five years prior to submitting an application. Mentors cannot be provided at the time of application or after an application is submitted. Having a mentor does not guarantee that an institution will be granted accreditation. Accreditation can only be achieved by a judgment from the AZA Accreditation Commission that the applicant institution meets or exceeds all AZA standards, and supports and employs AZA practices and philosophies.