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The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge and Accreditation Criteria: A Plan for Long-Term Management of Change

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Status of CE Education: Today & Tomorrow

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1433.1 - 22.1433.18



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Paper Authors


Stephen J. Ressler U.S. Military Academy

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Colonel Stephen Ressler is Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at 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 degree from Lehigh University in 1989, and a Ph.D. from Lehigh in 1991. An active duty Army officer, he has served in a variety of military engineering assignments around the world. He has been a member of the USMA faculty for 18 years, teaching courses in engineering mechanics, structural engineering, construction, and CE professional practice. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia and a Distinguished Member of ASCE.

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Daniel R. Lynch Dartmouth College

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Daniel R. Lynch, Ph.D., F.ASCE, is MacLean Professor of Engineering Science at Dartmouth and Adjunct Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dr. Lynch holds degrees from M.I.T. (BS and MS im Mechanical Engineering) and Princeton (MSE and PhD in Civil Engineering). Prior to Dartmouth he has served as Power Engineer, Quality Assurance Engineer, and Hydrologist. At Dartmouth he has served as Associate Dean of Engineering, on the steering committee of the USGLOBEC progran, and on the ASCE Body of Knowledge II committee.

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The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge and Accreditation Criteria: A Plan for Long-Term Management of ChangeBackgroundAccording to the sociology of professions, a body of knowledge (BOK) is the principal means bywhich a profession establishes jurisdictional claims with respect to other occupational groups.Because relationships between professions are dynamic, and jurisdictional claims are constantlyin flux, a strong profession must be able to adapt its BOK in response to emerging needs,opportunities, and threats.The dynamic character of a professional BOK has been evident in the development of theAmerican Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Civil Engineering BOK during the past eightyears.ASCE published the 1st Edition of the Civil Engineering BOK in 2004, following nearly twoyears of careful deliberation and broad-based review. The process of translating the BOK 1stEdition into associated accreditation criteria began immediately. This process culminated in theapproval of new ABET Civil Engineering Program Criteria by the ABET Board in October 2007and implementation of these criteria for accreditation visits in the fall of 2008.Yet, even as the formulation of these accreditation criteria was just getting underway, it becameapparent that significant updates to the Civil Engineering BOK itself would be required. Theserevisions were driven by:  aspects of the 1st Edition that did not lend themselves to effective measurement and assessment;  publication of several strategic vision documents that called for future engineers to develop certain knowledge, skills, and attitudes that had not been included in the 1st Edition; and  continuing changes in the global civil engineering professional environment.As a result, a 2nd Edition of the Civil Engineering BOK was initiated in October 2005 andpublished in February 2008. CAP3 then formed two committees to study the educational andexperiential fulfillment of the newly published BOK—and these committees identified furtherpotential refinements to the BOK.At this point, the need for careful synchronization of the published BOK and its associatedaccreditation criteria has become quite clear. Because of the normal six-year ABETaccreditation cycle, all U.S. civil engineering programs will not have been evaluated under thecriteria derived from the 1st Edition of the BOK until 2014. Yet the 2nd Edition has beenpublished for over two years, and many programs are already implementing it aggressively.Purpose and ScopeThis paper describes the development of a strategic plan for long-term management of updates tothe Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge and the associated ABET accreditation criteria. Theplan was formulated by a strategic planning subcommittee of the ASCE Committee on AcademicPrerequisites for Professional Practice (CAP3) and completed in August 2010.The principal objectives of this plan are:  to institutionalize systematic review and updating of the Civil Engineering BOK;  to keep the ABET Civil Engineering Program Criteria appropriately synchronized with the BOK; and  to enhance BOK implementation by providing more predictability in the change process.The plan incorporates the following considerations:  The period of time required to formulate and publish a new edition of the BOK is approximately two and a half years.  The period of time required to formulate, publish, gain approval of, and implement new ABET program criteria is approximately four years.  The period of time required for all U.S. engineering programs to be evaluated under a new set of program criteria is six years.  If accreditation criteria changes were implemented on a six-year cycle, then the same programs would be first to experience the changes on every cycle.Based on these considerations, the strategic planning subcommittee of CAP3 has recommendedthat all future updates of the BOK and accreditation criteria be implemented on a fixed eight-year cycle.This paper provides a comprehensive description of the strategic plan, its development, itsrationale, and its implications for civil engineering programs—and the profession.Session AssignmentThis 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 2011. It should beconsidered for inclusion in the session(s) that Tom Lenox is organizing and moderating.

Ressler, S. J., & Lynch, D. R. (2011, June), The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge and Accreditation Criteria: A Plan for Long-Term Management of Change Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18392

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