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"TUNING" Engineering Programs in the Context of ABET Accreditation

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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

Female Faculty, Learning, NSF, and ABET Issues at Two-Year Colleges

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.13.1 - 22.13.22



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Paper Authors


Mary Eileen Smith Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

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Mary E. Smith has been employed with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since 1987 and now serves as Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Academic Planning and Policy. She is responsible for the administration and management of matters related to the Board’s higher education academic planning and policy functions, and she provides leadership on key projects, reports, and studies that cut across divisions of the agency. She has taught at The University of Texas at Austin, and she currently is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Communication at St. Edward’s University in Austin.

Smith serves as the project coordinator for the $1.8 million productivity grant awarded to Texas from Lumina Foundation for Education to plan methods of making the opportunity of going to college more affordable for students and the state. Smith has organized numerous meetings and conferences on behalf of the Coordinating Board, and she has made a number of presentations at various academic and professional conventions and conferences. Smith served for five years as a program director in the former Division of Universities and Health-Related Institutions where her primary responsibilities included the review of new degree program proposals and the administration of the Minority Health Research and Education Grant Program. Smith spent her first 12 years of employment with the Coordinating Board in the Department of Personnel Services, where from 1996 to 1999 she served as the department’s assistant director. Prior to her employment with the Coordinating Board, Smith spent 13 years in the health care field.

Smith holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies, a Certificate in Dispute Resolution, a Master of Arts degree in Speech Communication, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, all from The University of Texas at Austin.

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David Walton Gardner Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board

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As Deputy Commissioner for Academic Planning and Policy and Chief Academic Officer, David W. Gardner leads the Coordinating Board’s Planning and Accountability Division, the Academic Affairs and Research Division, and the Division of P-16 Initiatives. His primary responsibilities include coordination of the Board’s efforts toward Closing the Gaps through academic excellence and research at Texas institutions of higher education.

Previously, Gardner served the agency as the Associate Commissioner for Academic Excellence and Research and as the Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Information Resources. Gardner provided leadership for statewide initiatives such as Texas’ higher education plan Closing the Gaps by 2015, the college and university electronic library resource sharing consortium, the Texas Accountability System for Higher Education, and the Texas Public Education Information Resource, which includes information on all students enrolled in Texas public schools, as well as public and private higher education institutions in Texas.

Prior to joining the Coordinating Board staff in 1985, Gardner was on the faculty at Hofstra University where he taught in the master's and doctoral programs in the Administration and Policy Studies Department. While at Hofstra, he was director of the master's program, chaired the university's planning committee, and served on the graduate council and the scholarships committee. He has been a visiting professor at Texas A&M University, and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Higher Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

Gardner received his Ph.D. and Master's degrees from Texas A&M University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston.

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James K. Nelson University of Texas, Tyler

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Dr. James K. Nelson received a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree from the University of Dayton in 1974. He received the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in civil engineering from the University of Houston. During his graduate study, Dr. Nelson specialized in structural engineering. He is a registered professional engineer in four states, a Chartered Engineer in the United Kingdom, and a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the SAFE Association.
Prior to receiving his Ph.D. in 1983, Dr. Nelson worked as a design engineer in industry and taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston and Texas A&M University at Galveston. In industry he was primarily involved in design of floating and fixed structures for the offshore petroleum industry. After receiving his Ph.D., Dr. Nelson joined the civil engineering faculty at Texas A&M University. He joined the civil engineering faculty at Clemson University in 1989 as Program Director and founder of the Clemson University Graduate Engineering Programs at The Citadel and became Chair of Civil Engineering in 1998.
In July 2002, Dr. Nelson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University as Chair of Civil and Construction Engineering. At Western Michigan he started the civil engineering undergraduate and graduate degree programs and also chaired the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Industrial Design. In summer 2005 he joined the faculty at The University of Texas at Tyler. At UT Tyler he was the founding chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and instituted the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. In 2006, he became the Dean of Engineering and Computer Science.
Dr. Nelson's primary technical research interest is the behavior of structural systems. For almost 25 years, he has been actively involved in evaluating the behavior of free-fall lifeboats and the development of analytical tools to predict that behavior. His research has formed the basis for many of the regulations of the International Maritime Organization for free-fall lifeboat performance. Since 1998, Dr. Nelson has served as a technical advisor to the United States Delegation to the International Maritime Organization, which is a United Nations Treaty Organization. In that capacity, he is a primary author of the international recommendation for testing free-fall lifeboats and many of the international regulations regarding the launch of free-fall lifeboats.
He has authored many technical papers that have been presented in national and international forums and co-authored three textbooks. Dr. Nelson chaired a national committee of the American Society of Civil Engineers for curriculum redesign supporting the civil engineering body of knowledge. He is actively engaged in developing strategies for enhancing the STEM education pipeline in Texas and nationally, and has testified before the Texas Senate in that regard. He served on a committee of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to develop a statewide articulation compact for mechanical engineering. He also served on the Texas State Board of Education committee preparing the standards for career and technical education. He is currently serving on the Engineering Education Task Force of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying.

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Tuning is the faculty-led process of defining what students must know, understand, and be ableto demonstrate after completing a degree in a specific field – in other words, a body ofknowledge and skills for an academic discipline in terms of outcomes and levels of achievementof its graduates. Tuning provides an expected level of competency achievement at each stepalong the process of becoming a professional: expectations at the beginning of pre-professionalstudy, at the beginning of professional study, and at the transition to practice. Tuning can alsodefine the competencies achieved through experience after formal education. Through Tuning,students have a clear “picture” of what is expected and can efficiently plan their educationalexperience to achieve those expectations. As part of a four-year, Lumina-sponsored grantproject, the State of Texas has embarked upon integrating the Tuning process into lower-divisioncourse-level alignment work that was piloted in 2009 through the efforts of the VoluntaryMechanical Engineering Transfer Compact Committee, a voluntary advisory committeecomprised of engineering deans and their designees from across Texas. Over a four-year grantperiod, with the help of additional voluntary higher education faculty advisory committees, theTuning process, and the process of vertically and horizontally aligning lower-division courses,will be applied to 12 academic discipline areas, beginning with engineering fields and otherhigh-need STEM disciplines. Presented in this paper are the basis and methodology used by the“Tuning Oversight Council for Engineering,” which is comprised of engineering facultymembers from across Texas, to align lower-division courses and Tune the civil, industrial,electrical, and mechanical engineering disciplines.

Smith, M. E., & Gardner, D. W., & Nelson, J. K. (2011, June), "TUNING" Engineering Programs in the Context of ABET Accreditation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17287

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