Engineering chair explains accreditation process

By Irina Rusanova

While the engineering department is seeking accreditation, department head Dr. Stacy Birmingham explained the application process. Look to The Review in the coming weeks for follow ups about the department’s progress and recent alumni’s activities.

This time last year, engineering students alerted administration that they were unaware the now seven-year-old engineering department had not yet begun the application process for ABET accreditation.

This year, however, students currently taking part in the still unaccredited program will receive accredited degrees as soon as the program has been approved by ABET, Dr. Stacy Birmingham, chair of the engineering department, indicated.

(Source: ABET)

“As long as [the students] are on campus when we’re writing [the preliminary] self-study and we’re successful, they will have an accredited degree,” Birmingham said. “It’s very important for us to be accredited [and] we’re trying to get to this end as quickly as we can.”

That timeline is uncertain, however.

“There are a number of steps that we have to go through prior to [completing the accreditation process],” Birmingham said. “So, I can’t say when we will be accredited; ultimately ABET […] is the one who will decide if they will accredit us.”

"As long as [the students] are on campus when we’re writing [the preliminary] self-study and we’re successful, they will have an accredited degree." - Stacy Birmingham

What is clear, however, is the 18 month accreditation process through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET.

“What we have been doing is trying to build up the program and satisfy the requirements,” Birmingham said. “There are a few steps we have to go through to make sure that our program is ready to be accredited, and once we finish those steps, then we submit what’s called a ‘Readiness Review’ to ABET.”

An institution is required to submit the Readiness Review if it has not gone through an accreditation process with ABET in the past. The review, as well as a number of other materials, is due by Oct. 1 and requires a $1,010 fee.

More specifically, a year before an on-site visit may be scheduled, an organization must produce a record of academic materials. In addition, to establish the organization’s readiness to journey toward accreditation, it must also produce student work along with a preliminary online request for a Readiness Review, the Readiness Review report itself, and a transcript from a program graduate.

“The purpose of [the preliminary Readiness Review] is to make sure that we will be successful,” said Birmingham.

Birmingham spoke about the useful feedback that will come after turning in the review and explained that suggestions from ABET program evaluators will help SVC guarantee success in accrediting the new engineering program. According to Birmingham, the process is similar to a student taking a pre-test to determine if he or she is prepared to take an actual test.

“If [the program evaluators] tell us they think they’re ready, then we go through sort of a year-long self-study that looks at the entire program, looks at students, the work the students do, our facilities, our faculty, at a large number of things,” she stated.

Students from 25 high schools take part in the Pasta Bridge Engineering Contest held by the SVC Engineering Department in 2019. (Source: SVC Flickr)

ABET approves the Request for Evaluation due by Jan. 31 of the year during which an institution wishes for a program evaluation to take place. After this, the institution is free to complete the Self-Study report by July 1 of the same year. Parallel steps to receiving permission for evaluation include attending an Institutional Representatives Day at ABET’s July Commission Meeting.

Upon proper completion of this process, ABET sends a review team to evaluate the program between September and December of the scheduled year. The team typically oversees the program for three days.

Following this evaluation, a lengthy period of decision finalization consisting of multiple steps occurs, and the institution seeking accreditation finally receives a message of confirmation or rejection by Aug. 31 of the year following the investigation.

“It is a long process,” said Birmingham. “We’re still making sure that we are doing everything we need to do to make sure that our [preliminary] Readiness Review is successful. We have yet to submit that review, but we’re working toward getting things ready to submit the review.”

All freshmen pursuing four years of education at SVC are part of the new program which will be undergoing ABET inspection.

“One thing that ABET needs to see is that we have graduates out of the new program,” Birmingham said. “So, we put a new engineering program in place; now we actually have to get graduates from that program, too, as one of the steps going for accreditation.”

Recently, the process received an unexpected complication, noted Dr. Stephen Jodis, dean of the Boyer school.

“The criteria changed,” he said, in regards to ‘student outcomes,’ which are equivalent to SVC’s ‘student learning outcomes,’ or SLO’s, that often appear in professors’ syllabi.

"It’s very important for us to be accredited [and] we’re trying to get to this end as quickly as we can." - Stacy Birmingham

“[Student outcomes] say, ‘by the time a student graduates from an engineering program, here’s what that student should be able to do,’” Birmingham said. “[ABET] recently revised all these other outcomes.”

Every engineering program seeking accreditation must now take into account these adjustments when making curriculums.

“One thing we recently went through last year was to revise our program to meet the new ABET outcomes,” Birmingham stated.

#IrinaRusanova #Engineering #Accreditation #EngineeringAccreditation

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