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From Disciplinary to Multidisciplinary Programs: Educational Outcomes, BOK’s, and Accreditation

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.802.1 - 26.802.23



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Paper Authors


Derek Guthrie Williamson University of Alabama

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Dr. Williamson obtained his undergraduate degree in 1990 in Engineering and Public Policy from Washington University in St.Louis. He received his MS (1993) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees in environmental engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Williamson joined the faculty of the the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at The University of Alabama in 1999. He has enjoyed 15 years of a dynamic profession of teaching, research, and service. he now serves as the Director of Undergraduate Programs for his Department.

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Kenneth J. Fridley University of Alabama

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Since 2003 Kenneth J. Fridley has served as Professor and Head of the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama. Dr. Fridley has been recognized as a dedicated educator throughout his career and has received several awards for his teaching efforts, including the ExCEEd (Excellence in Civil Engineering Education) Leadership Award in 2010. At the University of Alabama, Fridley has led efforts to establish several new programs including new undergraduate degree programs in construction engineering, architectural engineering and environmental engineering, a departmental Scholars program allowing highly qualified students and accelerated program to earn their MSCE in addition to their BS degree, the interdisciplinary ideaLAB promoting innovation in engineering, and the cross-disciplinary MSCE/MBA and MSCE/JD dual-degree programs. Fridley has advised 32 masters and doctoral students to completion. His former students have moved into leadership positions in industry, public service, and academia.

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W. Edward Back University of Alabama

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Professor, Dept. of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering
Director, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure

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From Disciplinary to Multidisciplinary Programs: Educational Outcomes, BOK’s, and AccreditationEngineering professions and professional societies develop Bodies of Knowledge (BOKs) orsimilar documents to define the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to successfully enterprofessional practice. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was an early leader inBOKs, releasing their first BOK in 2004. ASCE released their BOK II in 2008 and is dedicatedto updating their BOK to reflect changes in the profession. BOK’s are used by professionalsocieties to inform and develop ABET accreditation standards for engineering education.Therefore, they also have direct influence on how collegiate engineering curricula are developedand assessed.Over the past 30 years, many university departments of Civil Engineering have expanded andfrequently support multiple degrees. Such departments must consider multiple BOKs (orequivalent documents/principles) when developing their curricula, educational programoutcomes, and assessment plans. The University of Alabama is a perfect example of thechallenges facing many civil engineering programs across the United States. The University ofAlabama has offered degrees in Civil Engineering since 1837, and now offers four degrees in theDepartment of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE): B.S. CivilEngineering, B.S. Construction Engineering, B.S. in Environmental Engineering, and a B.S. inArchitectural Engineering. The department has gone through two cycles of accreditation with 2degrees and is preparing for a first visit for the new environmental and architectural engineeringdegrees. The UA CCEE department has developed a single, multi-disciplinary set of outcomessupporting all four degree programs. We based our unified set of outcomes on Civil EngineeringABET criteria and ASCE’s BOK and supplemented these with criteria, BOKs, and similardocuments from other societies, most notably using NSPE’s Engineering BOK and AAEES’sEnvironmental Engineering BOK.As Civil Engineering departments continue to evolve into multi-disciplinary sustainableinfrastructure programs, we believe a new vision for a multi-disciplinary BOK is needed. Thetransition from discipline focused objectives to multi-disciplinary objectives presents significantchallenges to academic departments. This is especially true given that each degree program willbe separately accredited using what is likely to be a single disciplined approach.While a complete vision for a new multi-discipline BOK is beyond the scope of this work, wewill present some characteristics of such a vision. We recommend characteristics of a new civilengineering discipline BOK that will support a multi-disciplinary infrastructure BOK. Severallessons will be presented from UA’s experience in developing a four program, single set ofoutcomes. The unified outcomes required iteratively modifying discipline-specific outcomes toallow for a broader definition and application. It was necessary to provide a discipline specificdefinition of design in order to craft multidisciplinary design outcomes and to properly conveyhow we view design in each discipline or degree program. Such lessons are critical as anymultidisciplinary set of programs must pass through discipline specific accreditation. Webelieve that some of our lessons and experiences may be generalized and used to inform the nextgeneration multidisciplinary BOK vision as well as discipline-specific BOKs, such as ASCE’sBOK III."COORDINATING NOTE:This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator ofthe ASCE Liaison Committee's program for the CE Division of ASEE in 2015. It should beconsidered for inclusion in the session that Tom Lenox is organizing and moderating.”

Williamson, D. G., & Fridley, K. J., & Back, W. E. (2015, June), From Disciplinary to Multidisciplinary Programs: Educational Outcomes, BOK’s, and Accreditation Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24139

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