Central College’s engineering program has received accreditation by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
“Achieving ABET accreditation of our engineering program is a historic milestone for Central,” says Mary E.M. Strey, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
“Our talented faculty have worked diligently to develop and launch the engineering program,” Strey says. “We are proud to be identified as a liberal arts college that holds the gold standard imprint of ABET.”
Central launched its Bachelor of Science in engineering program in 2015. Earning accreditation from ABET ensures that Central’s engineering program will evolve with the current and future needs of the engineering industry.
“The process goes all the way back to the inception of the engineering program, which was built from the ground up to meet ABET’s rigorous standards,” says Liz Golovatski, associate professor of physics. “Every course we have developed, every industry relationship we have cultivated, every change we have made, has been with an eye toward living up to ABET’s high standards for continuous improvement.”
Puneet Vishwakarma, lecturer of physics and engineering, has helped lead Central’s engineering program since its inception, designing the initial laboratory spaces and identifying equipment needs, in addition to guiding the design of the capstone lab space required by ABET.
“ABET accreditation means that our program meets global standards in engineering education,” Vishwakarma says. “It is a stamp of approval that makes the degree trustworthy. Many government and industry jobs in engineering seek employees with degrees from ABET-accredited programs. This accreditation will benefit Central students in job placements.”
The ABET website states that with ABET accreditation, “students, employers and the society we serve can be confident that a program meets the quality standards that produce graduates prepared to enter a global work force.”
“This is a big deal,” says Seth Sojka, a 2007 Central graduate who also is a member of Central’s ABET accreditation advisory group and a mechanical and project engineer based in Des Moines, Iowa. “The extra hours and dedication to achieving this accreditation is a true testament to everyone, especially the faculty steeped in this process daily for the past five years.”
The accreditation also is a boon for Central students and graduates. Central has graduated 28 students in engineering, including its first two female engineers in 2022.
“Many employers screen their job and internship candidates for degrees from ABET-accredited programs,” Golovatski says. “ABET accreditation means that our program has a level of quality that can be recognized globally. This accreditation will open doors for our students across the country and around the world.”
The ABET accreditation process is lengthy and entails a readiness review of the program, a request for evaluation, a submission of self-study report, the on-site visit and the final decision. The physics and engineering faculty at Central all participated in the multi-year process, interrupted for a few years due to the pandemic.
Golovatski guided the engineering and physics faculty in the assessment and continuous improvement processes and served as lead writer for the self-study submitted to ABET. “It was an honor to be able to really tell the story of what makes Central’s engineering program special,” she says.
Vishwakarma and other program faculty in the program completed ABET assessments in their courses and provided information for the self-study.
“ABET promotes excellence in technical education by focusing on continuous quality improvement processes,” Vishwakarma says. “One of the tasks was to assess our students’ work for ABET’s learning outcomes in courses and use that data to continuously improve the courses and the program.”
The engineering program’s success would not have been possible without the ongoing support of Vermeer Corporation, Pella Corporation and Precision, Inc., in Pella, Iowa, along with the Vermeer Charitable Foundation.
“The aspect that I really like is the senior design project or capstone project,” says Leon Durivage, senior engineering manager at Vermeer, who led the first senior capstone project in the engineering major. “It’s set up to mimic what an engineer will go through at a major company. A senior design project is an opportunity for the engineering seniors to develop a product and show that they have the product design methodology down. It helps students transform from being students into engineers.”
Vermeer has hired Central engineering graduates. “One reason why Vermeer started to help Central build a curriculum was to hopefully produce good engineers and good engineers for the kinds of work that we do,” Durivage says. “We also can influence the curriculum and have early access to good engineering talent.”
Durivage had previously served as an industry advisor at the University of Minnesota engineering program. “I always find it rewarding to work with students. They’re innovative. They don’t see the world the same way. You can watch them grow through challenges. It’s exciting to see them tackle a project and see how they go about it. It’s personally rewarding to watch students grow in this way.”
“This accreditation is proof of the wonderful work Central has done in building and developing the engineering program since its start,” Vishwakarma says. “It was a must-reach goal for us, and we worked very hard to achieve the goal.”
“To have our program accredited by ABET is really a validation of what we’ve known all along — that our students can get a high-quality engineering education and the small school liberal arts experience all at Central,” Golovatski says.
ABET, previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, is a nonprofit, nongovernmental agency that accredits programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering and engineering technology. It accredits programs, not institutions. For more information about ABET, see www.abet.org. Central’s engineering program is accredited through 2028.
Central College of Pella, Iowa, is a private, four-year liberal arts college. Central is known for its academic rigor and leadership formation and for cultivating diversity of thought and culture through the arts and sciences, professional fields of study and experiential learning.