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WannABET? Historical and Organizational Perspectives on Governance in Engineering Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

The Big Picture in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Stephanie Quiles-Ramos Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Stephanie is a Gradaute Research Assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has a BS in Industrial Organizational Psychology, a BA in Sociology, and a Certification in Women and Gender Studies. She is a Virginia Tech Pratt Fellow and a Virginia Tech Graduate McNair Scholar.
Her research interest are in Engineering Culture, Institutional Behavior, Women & Racial Minorities in Engineering, Responsible Civic Engagement and
Service Learning as a Pedagogical Practice in Engineering

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Donna M. Riley Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Atsushi Akera Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Atsushi Akera is Associate Professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY). He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania. His current research is on the history of engineering education reform in the United States (1945-present). He is Lead for the Connecting Us Team of the Board Strategic Doing Initiative; a candidate for PIC III Chair; past chair of the ASEE Liberal Education / Engineering and Society Division; past Executive Council member of the Society for the History of Technology’s (SHOT); and Associate Editor of the international journal, Engineering Studies. His publications include Calculating a Natural World: Scientists, Engineers and Computers during the Rise of U.S. Cold War Research (MIT Press, 2006).

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The recent round of proposed changes to the ABET engineering accreditation criteria has drawn significant attention from the engineering education community. After two decades of alignment between ABET learning outcomes and the stated priorities of the profession as articulated in documents such as Educating the Engineer of 2020, Changing the Conversation, ASME’s Vision 2030, and ASCE’s Raising the Bar, many have struggled to identify the reasons behind ABET’s seemingly abrupt departure from the common ideal of a liberally educated engineer. Here we employ organizational theory and historical analysis to help explain ABET’s behavior.

How have the broader politics of accreditation and higher education governance shaped ABET’s goals and operations? How have changes in accreditation standards and their associated change processes shaped the structure and value commitments of the profession? How do engineering mindsets and corporate cultures shape engineering ontologies and epistemologies of assessment and approaches to governance? How do global neoliberal trends in and beyond higher education shape institutional values and cultures, and how are these embodied in assessment and governance practices? Through historical and organizational analysis we seek to trace changes in the governance structures of engineering education and accreditation, and the impacts of the development and employment of accreditation in higher education.

In this paper, we will first provide a brief historical perspective on accreditation processes and organizations in engineering education, with a view to governance structures. Then we offer a more in depth comparison of ABET’s development of EC 2000 with the current proposed revisions as they have unfolded. We seek to develop insights on the role of governance in effecting change in engineering education, and specifically on historical changes in ABET’s processes for decision making and theories of change. These insights will point to possible interventions in governance structures to facilitate more inclusive participation in setting future directions for engineering education.

Quiles-Ramos, S., & Riley, D. M., & Akera, A. (2017, June), WannABET? Historical and Organizational Perspectives on Governance in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29110

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