Eastern’s mechanical engineering program is one step closer to being fully accredited after a visit from ABET, formerly known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
ABET made an onsite visit from Oct. 14- 16 to assess the mechanical engineering program that was first introduced in fall of 2010.
The first group of graduates completed their course work in spring 2012 and so EWU was able to start the more than one year long process of becoming fully accredited by ABET.
ABET is a nonprofit organization that specially certifies college programs that are related to computing, engineering and engineering technology. They certify over 3,100 programs in 24 countries around the world, according to ABET’s website.
Accreditation is voluntary and the process is conducted by professors from other universities and professionals from the engineering industry.
“This happens with every new program. It’s the exact same process that you can’t start until you get your first set of graduates through the program. We already have other ABET approved programs, so we already know kind of what to expect,” said Dr. Donald Richter, the mechanical engineering program director.
The mechanical engineering program was first introduced in the fall of 2010, and in the spring of 2012 the first set of seven graduates received their diplomas.
These graduates will retroactively receive an ABET accredited degree when EWU completes the ABET evaluation process.
In January 2012 EWU sent their request for evaluation, and since then they have prepared for last week’s visit by completing self-study reports that include things like course plans, syllabi, and examples of student work.
During the visit, ABET reviewed materials and classroom facilities and also interviewed groups of students, faculty and administrators. Richter said that the department is feeling positive about the visit.
“In the university’s mind, we had a very good accreditation visit, we’re very pleased. We saw nothing major that should keep us from being able to be certified in July. There were no showstoppers, so to speak. There were very few things that we were told during the verbal draft,” said Richter.
Richter said that the department will not know until several months from now, when they are sent an official statement, what precisely was wrong with the program and what needs to be fixed.
Part of ABET’s policy stipulates that Eastern is not allowed to publicly share what specific things were wrong.
After Eastern finds out what they need to fix, they plan to make the corrections and then ABET will vote in July to decide whether or not to make the accreditation.
Their decision will be announced no later than Aug. 31, 2013.
Once the program is accredited professors expect to see growth in the amount of students who decide to major in mechanical engineering.
This year alone the department has seen nearly a 15 percent increase in students, according to mechanical engineering professor Jason Durfee.
“We’ve had huge growth in the program but we expect to see a huge uptake once we are accredited. The students that are coming now are coming on the faith that we are going to become an accredited program. I predict it will grow 15 to 20 percent upon accreditation, and … grow for the next five years, and after that providing resources maybe 10 percent a year,” said Richter.
Being accredited is voluntary, but Durfee said it makes a statement for a program to go through this process.
“It says that we have a quality program. That we meet a certain of minimum standards in all the coursework and all the knowledge that the students will have when they graduate,” said Durfee.