University of Georgia

UGA engineering programs earn accreditation

Rodney Averett teaches engineering
Professor Rodney Averett teaches undergraduate students in an engineering classroom. All eight undergraduate degree programs in the College of Engineering now have earned accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski)

The University of Georgia College of Engineering reached a milestone this month. The college received initial accreditation of its Bachelor of Science programs in electrical and electronics engineering and in mechanical engineering. All eight undergraduate degree programs in the college now have earned accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

“This is a significant accomplishment for the students, staff and faculty of our college,” said Donald Leo, dean of the College of Engineering. “ABET accreditation validates our efforts to meet the high standards of the engineering profession through our curriculum, instruction, student support services and experiential learning opportunities.”

What is ABET?
ABET is the recognized global accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. Accreditation from the nonprofit accrediting agency demonstrates a program’s commitment to providing its students with a quality, rigorous education.

ABET accreditation is a voluntary peer-review process that evaluates program curricula, faculty expertise, facilities, instructional support and other factors.

Engineering grows in popularity
Although engineering has been taught at UGA since at least 1868, the College of Engineering was re-established in 2012 when the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the merger of UGA’s Faculty of Engineering with the department of biological and agricultural engineering.

Since 2012, enrollment in engineering at UGA has grown from about 400 students to more than 2,100 undergraduates and more than 120 graduate students.

For UGA’s mechanical engineering and electrical and electronics engineering programs to be eligible for accreditation, the college had to first graduate at least one class of students in each program. The college’s first class of engineers in both programs graduated in the 2016-2017 academic year, and the accreditation process began as soon as the programs were eligible ­– during the 2017-2018 academic year. The accreditation of both programs is retroactive to October 2016, meaning all previous graduates in these degree programs have earned degrees from an accredited engineering institution.

Better employment opportunities
Most employers in private industry and the federal government require a diploma from an ABET-accredited program as condition for employment in certain technical fields such as engineering. Industry licensing and certification groups also use graduation from an ABET-accredited program to screen applicants. This accreditation also can open doors to government-sponsored funding in the form of student loans, grants and scholarships.

As part of the evaluation, the commission used detailed criteria to analyze student performance and outcomes, curriculum requirements and program educational objectives, faculty competency and facilities.

“I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of the faculty, staff, students and members of the university administration who participated in the ABET site visit as well as the members of our college who worked so hard throughout the review process,” said Leo.

Mark Haidekker, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, served as ABET coordinator for the electrical and electronics engineering degree program.

Thomas Lawrence, a professor of practice, served as ABET coordinator for the mechanical engineering degree program.

Ramana Pidaparti, associate dean for academic affairs and assessment, Heather Lotane, program support specialist, Julie Cook, academic manager, Patsy Adams, assistant to the dean, and Roger Hilten, instructional lab manager, coordinated the accreditation effort at the college level.

Hillary Tanner, a senior lecturer in the School of Environmental, Civil, Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering, assisted with the development of self-study reports.

School Chairs Sidney Thompson (Environmental, Civil, Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering) and Fred Beyette (Electrical and Computer Engineering), provided leadership throughout the ABET site evaluation process. In her role as inaugural chair for the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2017, Takoi Hamrita oversaw the initial preparation of the self-study report for the degree program in electrical and electronics engineering.