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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College of Engineering achieves accreditations for three discipline-specific degree programs

When the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) called for a vote on Arkansas State University College of Engineering’s three new degree programs, the dean of the college, Dr. David Beasley, walked out of the room.

A-State’s application for accreditation was not in trouble, nor was the vote ever in doubt. Dr. Beasley left the meeting and did not vote because he was conducting his final meeting as EAC chair and had to maintain impartiality.

Over the past four years, Dean Beasley had shepherded the faculty’s degree accreditation application to the point of formal consideration by the 70-plus members of the Commission.

EAC is one of four major commissions within ABET, a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.

As expected, the vote was fine . . . the College of Engineering’s three bachelor’s degree programs in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering were approved for accreditation, retroactive to the 2010-11 academic year and continuing until fall of 2017.

Beasley, in one of his last actions as commission chair, had the pleasure of addressing the formal notification letter to himself, as dean of the college. After eight years as an evaluator, five years as a commission member, three years on the executive committee and four years in the officer chain, Beasley now serves as past chair.

“ABET is an absolutely remarkable organization because of its mix of mostly volunteer representatives from academia, industry, government,” Beasley noted, reflecting on his experience. “Ultimately, our primary mission is to improve engineering education.”

This year alone, during Beasley’s term as chair, the Engineering Accreditation Commission evaluated 523 programs at 144 institutions in the U.S. and 12 other countries. ABET commissions review more than 3,350 programs in the U.S. and 23 other countries, with engineering accounting for 2,250 of those programs.

Beasley actually had a fairly good idea that A-State’s proposed accreditations would be approved. The accreditation visit in September 2012 went very smoothly with evaluators identifying only a few issues, which were taken care of during the due-process response period.

“This speaks highly to the faculty stewardship and buy-in for taking all steps necessary to attain the accreditations,” Beasley said.

In addition to the faculty, he also commended the directors of the respective newly accredited programs in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, Dr. Tom Parsons, Dr. Paul Mixon, and Dr. Brad Edgar, for their leadership during the evaluation process.

While A-State’s enrollment in engineering has been growing, Beasley expects it will be up significantly in the next year or so, largely due to the new accreditations. He also is very proud of the 50 percent growth in engineering faculty in the four years he has been at A-State.

Another positive factor is the recent addition of a master of science degree program in engineering and a master’s in engineering management (now five years old), which give graduates with the bachelor’s degree an option to start graduate school. Additional engineering tracks also are under consideration.

Beasley emphasized the changes are affecting the future of the College of Engineering in a very positive way.

“We’re becoming a different kind of engineering school, a more full-service school, and the faculty has more flexibility to conduct research,” he explained.

One of the newest engineering faculty members who has gotten involved in research with notable success is Dr. Brandon Kemp, assistant professor of electrical engineering. Last year, he received the Career Award from the National Science Foundation, in recognition of excellence in research and education – A-State’s first such award.

Beasley is confident that additional awards and professional achievements are on the horizon for the College of Engineering, which is helping Arkansas State carry out its mission to educate leaders, enhance intellectual growth, and enrich lives.

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