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The Raise the Bar Initiative: Charting the Future by Understanding the Path to the Present - Accreditation Criteria

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Reflections on the “Raise the Bar” Initiative (Part I) - Using a Decade of Experience to Chart the Future

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1329.1 - 25.1329.22



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Paper Authors


Stephen J. Ressler U.S. Military Academy

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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's 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 19 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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The Raise the Bar Initiative: Charting the Future by Understanding the Path to the Present – Accreditation CriteriaBeginning in 1995 at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Civil EngineeringEducation Conference (CEEC ’95), key educational and professional leaders of the civilengineering community in the United States have been working to reform civil engineeringeducation. In 1998, the call for action from CEEC ’95 resulted in the passage of ASCE PolicyStatement 465—Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice. ASCE Policy465 states that, in the future, education beyond the baccalaureate degree will be necessary forentry into the professional practice of civil engineering. In 2002, an ASCE Board-levelcommittee, the Committee on Academic Prerequisites for Professional Practice (CAP3), wasformed to study and implement the actions that would be necessary to achieve this vision forcivil engineering. In the decade since the establishment of CAP3, ASCE’S Raise the Barinitiative has made significant progress across five distinctly different but interrelated domains—establishment of a formalized civil engineering body of knowledge, development of revisedaccreditation criteria, curriculum reform, formulation of experiential guidelines, andmodification of licensure laws and rules.The purposes of this paper are (1) to summarize the decade-long process of developing andimplementing new accreditation criteria in support of the Raise the Bar initiative; (2) to presentthe principal lessons learned through this process; and (3) to provide recommendations for futuredevelopments in the accreditation domain.The paper begins with a chronological summary of the development of new accreditation criteriaas a mechanism for fostering curriculum reform in support of ASCE Policy Statement 465. Theimpetus for this effort was the publication of ASCE’s Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge forthe 21st Century (BOK), which articulates the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for entryinto the practice of civil engineering at the professional level. In this paper, we demonstrate theefficacy of using accreditation criteria to foster the broad-based curriculum reforms necessary forBOK implementation. We discuss the fundamental difference between the BOK outcomes,which are comprehensive, aspirational, and future-oriented, and accreditation criteria, which areminimum standards suitable for immediate implementation. And we present the methodologyused to translate BOK outcomes into associated accreditation criteria in a manner that fostersBOK implementation without being overly prescriptive.In discussing lessons learned, we note the critical importance of the following:  Consensus-building and coordination—particularly with civil engineering department heads  Clear articulation of the connections and distinctions between the BOK and associated accreditation criteria  ABET program evaluator education and training  Recognition of the dynamic nature of a professional BOK and the consequent need for periodic revisions to accreditation criteria  Development of system for managing long-term change to both the BOK and its associated accreditation criteria  Predictability as the single most important consideration in the development of such a systemBased on these observations, we propose a series of recommendations for the long-termdevelopment of accreditation criteria in support of ASCE’s Raise the Bar initiative. The mostimportant of these recommendations is a strategic plan for the formulation of updates to the civilengineering BOK and the associated ABET accreditation criteria on a systematic, predictableeight-year cycle.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 2012. It should beconsidered for inclusion in the session that Tom Lenox is organizing and moderating.

Ressler, S. J. (2012, June), The Raise the Bar Initiative: Charting the Future by Understanding the Path to the Present - Accreditation Criteria Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22086

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