MY ENGINEERING ACCREDITATION ACTIVITIES

 

THIRTY YEARS IN THE ENGINEERING
ACCREDITATION BUSINESS
or
LIFE WITH the Engineers Council for Professional Development (ECPD), the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) AND the Enginering Accreditation Commission (EAC)
By Robert L. Young

INTRO: At age 81, I recall with pleasure the many years I spent in accreditation activities, the means we developed and used in our efforts to improve engineering education, and a few commrnts on the improvements(?) in the accreditation process since I left the activity in the early 1990s. I dedicate this to my fellow volunteers and the staffers who became my great friends.

My first experience with ECPD engineering accreditation was as a young Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, A faculty member who I knew for his work in radiation heat transfer at Purdue visited me in my office and told me that he was the ECPD visitor for the Northwestern Mechanical Engineering Department evaluation. We had a pleasant chat about my teaching, student advising and research work. As was to be expected we gained full accreditation.

As I moved to Tullahoma to direct The UT/AEDC Graduate Study Program I became very active in AIAA Education Programs and became Chair of the AIAA Academic Affairs Committee. In that capacity, I knew David Kaufman well for he was the AIAA staff person for education. David was very critical of ECPD and its later organization ABET. He arranged for me to be AIAA representative on an ECPD Committee to provide review and advice on ECPD activities. Although this Committee was not very active it did permit me to meet many engineering faculty active in ECPD accreditation and to know well David Reyes Guerra, ECPD Executive Director and the ECPD staff including John Alden Accreditation Director.

With David Kaufman's help, I became an AIAA EAC visitor for Aerospace Engineering. My first visit was to the Aerospace Engineering Department at The University of Florida in Gainesville. I was called on at the last moment to replace an evaluator who had become ill so I did not feel very well prepared for the visit and in fact did not receive the visitation materials until I got to Gainesville The leader of the team was Dean Gamble a very experienced and helpful person. First we met with the Engineering Dean who turned out to be a young PhD in Nuclear Engineering who I had met during the Summer of 1956 Summer Nuclear program at Argonne Laboratory near Chicago.

The Head of Aerospace Engineering was a worrier who complained incessantly about lack of support. He was much involved in plasma physics and was somewhat critical of the several old time aerospace engineers on his faculty. When interviewed they questioned whether the Department was an Aeronautical Engineering or Physics Department and they were continuing to use the students to design and build a small single engine private airplane. (About four years after this visit, I heard that it was completed and FLEW!!)

I also talked with a young Professor Dennis Keefer who later joined us at UTSI and had a fine research and teaching career. The dissension in the Department did not bother me for they had good students with a highly qualified and conscientious faculty and I recommended full accreditation for them.

The second evening the Dean phoned me and I told him of the dissension but also pointed out that the Department was doing a fine job. Later some of the old head AIAA evaluators questioned their emphasis on Physics but I merely reminded them that was the future for AeroSPACE Engineering and that surely was the case.

I believe that my next visit was also as a replacement for an aerospace visitor who had a last minute conflict. We were visiting The California Institute of Technology which was quite famous for its accomplishments in aerospace-- Theodore von Karman and Hans Liepmann were on their faculty and I was quite pleased to have the opportunity to visit their school.

Von Karman had long ago considered the heat transfer from a rotating disk which was my PhD dissertation project and he had developed an analytical solution for the heat transfer rate which I referred to in my dissertation and subsequent ASME paper, Liepmann was quite famous for his pioneering work in gasdynamics.

When we arrived on campus for initial discussions with Bob Cannon, Dean of Engineering just returned from Washington DC where he had been Secretary for Transportation. Our discussions were delayed as Cannon finished a lecture to the graduate students in his office area.

Liepmann showed me his famous gasdynamics laboratory and I visited with several faculty and students. Clearly the course work and research work was excellent. However I did notice that graduate degrees in Aerospace Engineering were being awarded to students with undergraduate degrees in engineering, physics, mathematics and chemistry a few of them with undergraduate degrees from Cal Tech but most with degrees from other universities. Inspection of their records showed that all were outstanding students.

Cal Tech did not have an undergraduate aero program and their graduate aero program had a long string of full accreditations. At that time Abet had just begun a program of accrediting graduate programs. Although the ABET people were quite enthusiastic about accreditation at the graduate level, many University faculty and officials did not share their enthusiasm believing that it might discourage innovation in graduate programs and some objected to more accreditation activities on campus. Just at the time of this visit, AlAA declared that it would not permit its ABET visitors to accredit graduate programs.

So I was in a quandary! Later it was decided that an engineering program could only be accredited at one level. I pointed out this problem during the closing interview with the CIT President who had recently been Secretary of Defense. Later I recommended a 3 year accreditation and visit (3V) to the EAC and that was confirmed.

Later a good friend who became an EAC visitor as a result of my appointing him visited CIT and because of the lack of engineering background by many of their graduate aerospace engineering program students, he recommended SHOW CAUSE for the program and later it's accreditation was lost.. It happened that I was Chair of the EAC when that occurred. I felt it was quite a shame that one of the highest reputation aerospace programs in the world was not accredible and AIAA officials were very critical of ABET. As I had previously explained to CIT, their aerospace graduate program could be accredited if they would set up another graduate program to accept only people with undergraduate engineering degrees while they kept the existing program for those without engineering backgrounds. I talked personally to Liepmann about this solution but ultimately their faculty voted not to modify their fine program as I had suggested. Even today in 2006, their fine aerospace graduate program remains without ABET/EAC Accreditation,
 
Byron Tapley, Professor of Aerospace at the University of Texas Austin was representing AIAA on the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC). He was in the middle of a three year term when he decided that he lacked the time to do the EAC job so David Kaufman asked if I would like to replace Tapley on the EAC. I had already made ABET visits as the AIAA person for Aerospace Engineering but I knew little about ABET and EAC. I asked Dr.Goethert if he felt it would be appropriate for me to represent AIAA on the EAC and he agreed to support me in that activity. Travel expenses were paid by ABET so he was giving me time not financial support.

About this time,my second wife Martha died after a long hospital stay and I had to ask for two other evaluators to conduct the visits I was scheduled to make in the fall of 1978.

As the only AIAA representative on EAC, I attended my first Executive Committee of the EAC Board meeting in New Orleans January 1980 with my new wife Betty Sullivan (Mayberry) (Delk) Young. Betty was a very pretty brunette and my friends on the Executive Committee welcomed me and her with the enthusiasm a beautiful lady deserved. Usually the new members of the Exec Committee had an orientation session but there was no time for that because of the sudden resignation of Professor Tapley. However the Committee greeted me warmly and gave me material that aided my orientation. George Burnet of Iowa State Univeristy, David Van Horn of Lehigh, Bill Sangster of Georgia Tech and J. B. Jones of VPI were particularly helpful in getting me up to speed. Later John Prados of The University of Tennessee, Leighton Sissom of Tennessee Tech, Irene Peden of Washington University and Ed Ernst of the University of Illinois were among the many providing much needed assistance.

PAGE 1


back
Powered by MSN TV
next page