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Structural Engineering Education and Accreditation: Perspectives, Developmental Paradigms, and Recommendations

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Educational & Professional Issues of Strategic Importance to the Civil Engineering Profession – and ASCE

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count

12

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28855

Download Count

49

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Paper Authors

biography

Stephen J. Ressler U.S. Military Academy

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Stephen Ressler, P.E. Ph.D. 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 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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biography

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 & 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 recent 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. 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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Abstract

This paper addresses three closely related research questions:

(1) From the perspective of the engineering profession, what is the appropriate relationship between the civil engineering and structural engineering disciplines? (2) What is the appropriate developmental paradigm for acquiring the professional body of knowledge and attaining professional licensure in structural engineering? (3) Should structural engineering programs be ABET-accredited; and, if so, at what level?

In addressing these questions, the authors present a comprehensive summary of relevant published sources documenting current policies and practices. These sources include:

• Formal policy statements of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), and the Structural Engineering Licensure Coalition (SELC) • Current ABET accreditation policies and organizational structure • Current accreditation criteria of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) • Current trends in the accreditation of advanced engineering specialty areas • The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Model Law and Model Rules for engineering licensure • Current state licensure laws and practices • Current design of the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering Exam • Current design of the NCEES Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam • Representative curricula of current baccalaureate-level and master’s level structural engineering programs

We also summarize relevant published sources suggesting possible future directions for structural engineering education and accreditation—and, more generally, for education and accreditation in advanced engineering specialty discipline areas. These sources include:

• Widely accepted theoretical frameworks from the Sociology of Professions • Strategic plans and vision statements published by ASCE, SEI, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and other professional organizations • Work products and correspondence associated with the Task Committee on ABET Accreditation of Structural Engineering Programs from 2011 to 2013. • Opinion pieces published in professional periodicals

Based on this review of documentary sources, two distinctly different perspectives emerge:

Perspective #1: Structural engineering is an advanced specialty sub-discipline of civil engineering. The most common developmental paradigm associated with this perspective incorporates (1) an ABET EAC-accredited baccalaureate degree in civil engineering, which provides a broad foundation in technical and professional practice topics across the CE discipline; (2) master’s-level education in the structural engineering specialty sub-discipline; and (3) appropriate qualifying engineering experience. Consistent with this paradigm, practicing structural engineers seek licensure first as professional engineers (PE), then as structural engineers (SE).

Perspective #2: Structural engineering is a stand-alone engineering discipline, comparable to other major engineering disciplines, such as civil, mechanical, and electrical engineering. The developmental paradigm associated with this perspective incorporates (1) an ABET EAC-accredited baccalaureate degree in structural engineering; (2) master’s-level education in structural engineering; and (3) appropriate qualifying engineering experience. Consistent with this paradigm, practicing structural engineers seek licensure only as structural engineers (SE).

Having articulated these alternative perspectives, we assess the appropriateness of each one, with respect to the relevant authoritative published sources suggesting future directions (as summarized above). Based on this analysis, we draw conclusions about the appropriateness of ABET EAC accreditation of structural engineering programs at the baccalaureate and masters levels.

We suggest that this analysis is broadly applicable, not only to the specific case of structural engineering, but also to the other traditional civil engineering specialty sub-disciplines (e.g., geotechnical engineering, transportation engineering) and to the many emerging specialty curricular areas in other disciplines (e.g., mechatronics, energy systems engineering).

**************************** COORDINATING NOTE: This abstract is submitted at the specific invitation and request of Tom Lenox, the coordinator of the ASCE Liaison Committee’s session(s) for the CE Division of ASEE in 2017. 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.

Ressler, S. J., & Lenox, T. A. (2017, June), Structural Engineering Education and Accreditation: Perspectives, Developmental Paradigms, and Recommendations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28855

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015