Sweet Briar College’s Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program has received accreditation for its engineering science degree program from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
ABET Inc. is the recognized accreditor for college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology. Accreditation is a voluntary peer-review process that evaluates curriculum, faculty, facilities and institutional support to ensure the program meets the quality standards established by the specified profession.
“Becoming an ABET-accredited program is a huge step forward for Sweet Briar engineering,” said director Hank Yochum.
Yochum, who guided the program through the ABET review once it graduated its first class and became eligible for accreditation in 2009, says the endorsement lets employers, graduate schools and prospective students know they can trust the quality of the education. In some cases, it is a requirement for employment or licensure.
“We are eager for our students to enjoy the increased employment opportunities associated with graduating from an ABET-accredited degree program,” he said. “While our graduates have done well with jobs and graduate school placement, this will certainly open new doors to them.”
Accreditation also creates a mechanism to continually assess and improve the program.
“This is great news for both Sweet Briar and the region,” said Bob Bailey, executive director of the Lynchburg, Va.-based Center for Advanced Research and Engineering, which partners with area colleges and universities to keep high-wage industries thriving in Virginia’s Region 2000.
“We have a continuing need for scientists and engineers in our core industry cluster of wireless communications, nuclear energy and advanced manufacturing. Announcements like this tell us that the region is expanding its capability to produce these kinds of graduates,” Bailey said.
The Bachelor of Science degree in engineering science at Sweet Briar is multidisciplinary, with emphasis on mechanical and electrical engineering. Providing students opportunities to work on design projects that help real people is a cornerstone of the curriculum. It is one of two ABET-accredited degree programs at a women’s college in the country.
“Sweet Briar is proud to be addressing the regional and national need for engineers,” said Jo Ellen Parker, president of the College. “We graduate liberally educated engineers who acquire excellent technical skills along with a broad education that teaches them to think critically and communicate effectively, preparing them to become leaders in the engineering profession.”
Yochum also reiterated the need to encourage more women to become engineers, because they bring a different approach to the discipline. “It’s important for society that more women and other underrepresented groups join the field so that we get multiple perspectives to dealing with complex societal issues,” he said.