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Is it Time for ASCE to Withdraw from ABET?

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Key Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession - and ASCE - Part 2

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Stephen J. Ressler P.E., Dist.M.ASCE, F.ASEE U.S. Military Academy

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Stephen Ressler, P.E. Ph.D., Dist.M.ASCE, F.ASEE is Professor Emeritus from the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point. He earned a B.S. degree from USMA in 1979, a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University in 1989, and a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1991. As an active duty Army officer, he served for 34 years in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. He served as a member of the USMA faculty for 21 years, including six years as Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering. He retired as a Brigadier General in 2013. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, a Distinguished Member of ASCE, and a Fellow of ASEE. He currently works as an education consultant and is extensively engaged in professional service, public speaking, and educational outreach to kids.

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Thomas A. Lenox , Dist.M.ASCE, F.ASEE American Society of Civil Engineers

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Thomas A. Lenox, Ph.D., Dist.M.ASCE, F.ASEE is Executive Vice President (Emeritus) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy (USMA), Master of Science degree in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Cornell University, Master of Business Administration degree in Finance from Long Island University, and a Ph.D. degree in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University. Dr. Lenox served for over 28 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S Army Field Artillery in a variety of leadership positions in the U.S., Europe, and East Asia. He retired at the rank of Colonel. During his military career, Dr. Lenox spent 15 years on the engineering faculty of USMA including five years as the Director of the Civil Engineering Division. Upon his retirement from the U.S. Army in 1998, he joined the staff of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In his position as educational staff leader of ASCE, he managed several new educational initiatives – collectively labeled as Project ExCEEd (Excellence in Civil Engineering Education). As ASCE’s Executive Vice President, Dr. Lenox led several educational and professional career-development projects for the civil engineering profession – with the overall objective of properly preparing individuals for their futures as civil engineers. An example is his staff leadership of ASCE’s initiative to “Raise the Bar” for entry into professional engineering practice. Dr. Lenox’s awards include ASCE’s ExCEEd Leadership Award, ASEE’s George K. Wadlin Award, ASCE’s William H. Wisely American Civil Engineer Award, and the CE News’ “2010 Power List – 15 People Advancing the Civil Engineering Profession.” He is a Distinguished Member of ASCE and a Fellow of ASEE. In January 2014, Dr. Lenox retired from his staff position with ASCE. Up through November 2019, he continued to serve the engineering profession as a member of ABET's Board of Delegates, Engineering Area Delegation, Global Council, and Governance Committee and several of ASCE's educational and professional committees. He remains an active member of the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE.

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Faced with budget pressures, members of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Board of Direction have recently raised serious concerns about the substantial costs associated with the Society’s membership in ABET and participation in ABET accreditation and governance. These concerns have been exacerbated by frustration with some of ABET’s policies, priorities, and processes, and with ASCE’s declining influence in ABET governance. Given these concerns, is it time for ASCE to consider withdrawing from ABET?

The purpose of this paper is to answer the following research questions: • From ASCE’s perspective, what are the current benefits and costs associated with membership in ABET? • To what extent has ASCE’s membership in ABET enabled or hindered the Society’s pursuit of its strategic goals? • What would be the implications—positive and negative—of ASCE terminating its membership in the ABET federation?

Based on the answers to these questions, we propose a strategy by which ASCE could withdraw from ABET while still ensuring that (1) graduates of U.S. baccalaureate-level civil engineering programs are able to pursue professional licensure and (2) ASCE is able to validate individual engineers’ preparation for the practice of civil engineering at the professional level. We conclude by summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of implementing this strategy, along with its associated preconditions and risks.

COORDINATING NOTE: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of the coordinators of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s session(s) for the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE in June 2020. It should be considered for inclusion in the session(s) on “Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE” that Leslie Nolen and Tom Lenox are organizing.

Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2020, June), Is it Time for ASCE to Withdraw from ABET? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34886

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