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Raising the Bar for Civil Engineering: Implications of the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute Profiles

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Influencing the Next (Third!) Edition of the Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge for the 21st Century

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Stephen J. Ressler Education Consultant

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Stephen Ressler, P.E. Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus from the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) at West Point and currently works as an education consultant. 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 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 and a Distinguished Member of ASCE.

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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 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 & 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.” In 2013, he was selected as a Distinguished Member of ASCE. In January 2014, Dr. Lenox retired from his staff position with ASCE. He continues to serve the engineering profession as an active member of ABET's Board of Delegates and Global Council, several of ASCE's education and accreditation committees, and ASEE’s Civil Engineering Division.

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The purposes of this paper are: (1) To examine the engineering Graduate Attribute and Professional Competency Profiles, formulated and published by the International Engineering Alliance (IEA); (2) To compare these profiles with the current ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs and proposed changes to these criteria; and (3) To assess the implications of this comparison for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “Raise the Bar” initiative.

The International Engineering Alliance (IEA) is a representative organization, composed of the signatories to a series of international agreements regarding engineering accreditation and professional licensure. For the purposes of this paper, the most important of these agreements is the Washington Accord—an international mutual recognition agreement among bodies responsible for engineering accreditation. The purposes of the Washington Accord are to improve engineering education and competence globally and to promote the international mobility of engineers. Established in 1989, the Accord accomplishes these purposes by recognizing the substantial equivalency of the engineering programs accredited by its signatory organizations. ABET is a signatory to the Washington Accord and thus is obligated to ensure that its accreditation criteria and processes are substantially equivalent to those of the other signatories.

In June 2001, recognizing the importance of using uniform standards as the basis for judging substantial equivalency, the IEA began a long-term process of defining mutually agreeable Graduate Attribute Profiles and Professional Competency Profiles for engineers, engineering technologists, and engineering technicians. These profiles are sets of assessable outcomes that reflect a graduate's potential to acquire the competence necessary to practice at a given level. The IEA adopted the first version of these outcomes in June 2005 and the most recent update in June 2013.

IEA Graduate Attribute Profiles and Professional Competency Profiles for engineers comprise a rigorous, thoughtfully derived, and comprehensively organized set of international benchmarks for engineering knowledge and skills. As such, in addition to their role as the basis for membership in, and compliance with, the Washington Accord, the IEA Profiles also represent an important source of input to ASCE’s ongoing effort to define its professional body of knowledge, in conjunction with the “Raise the Bar” initiative.

In this paper, the authors conduct a detailed comparison of the IEA Profiles for engineering against: (1) The current ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs (with separate consideration of the General Criteria for Baccalaureate Level Programs and the recently approved Program Criteria for Civil and Similarly Named Engineering Programs) (2) The ABET Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, with currently proposed changes to Criteria 3 and 5.

Based on these comparisons, we identify several significant shortfalls in the current and proposed ABET Criteria; we note that the Civil Engineering Program Criteria address some—but not all—of these shortfalls; and we demonstrate that the proposed changes to Criteria 3 and 5 appear to be further increasing the inconsistency between the IEA Profiles and the ABET Criteria. We conclude by summarizing the implications of these findings for the ASCE “Raise the Bar” initiative; and we provide corresponding recommendations for consideration by ASCE’s accreditation community.

Coordinating Note: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s program for the CE Division of ASEE in 2016. It should be considered for inclusion in the session “Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE” that Tom Lenox is organizing and moderating.

Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2016, June), Raising the Bar for Civil Engineering: Implications of the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute Profiles Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26035

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