As much as the accreditation process can be intense for engineering programs, it’s also a significant investment on the part of those doing the evaluating.
For many of them, it’s a chance to serve in a vitally important role, and along the way, they get detailed insight into the best of what programs across the globe are doing. That’s certainly the view of two Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members who are part of a new class of biomedical engineering program evaluators for ABET (originally the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).
“I have always appreciated the accreditation process as a means to ensure that we continuously strive to assess, evaluate, reflect, and improve upon programs and student experiences,” said Dana Abouelnasr, senior lecturer in the Coulter Department. “I have had the unique opportunity to work in a new program in a new university, which was at the beginning of its accreditation journey. The resulting improvements, enhancements, and new culture of reflection and continuous improvement were quite amazing.”
Abouelnasr and Essy Behravesh will participate in training this spring to officially become a program evaluator. Evaluators are key in the reviews of engineering education programs that happen every six years. They look at program materials and visit campuses to assess programs and help them with their continuous improvement processes. Abouelnasr and Behravesh will join Senior Associate Chair and Professor Paul Benkeser in the work; he’s served as an evaluator for nearly two decades and recommended both of them.
“The industry and government experience they bring to the table is very attractive,” Benkeser said. “We really try to involve as many folks from industry as we can in evaluating programs to round out the perspective of the accrediting committees. Dana and Essy bring that experience, which is a big plus along with their work in academia.”
Behravesh spent several years in industry before coming to Georgia Tech. He’s now the director of student services in the Department and teaches a systems-level engineering physiology lab.
“As a program evaluator, I get to learn how other biomedical engineers run their programs. I think to be the best, you have to understand the rest,” Behravesh said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how other programs leverage their strengths, and more importantly, how we can be more efficient in our use of data for continuous improvement.”
Behravesh has been deeply involved in the Coulter Department’s ABET visits. He said working with programs on their reaccreditation also offers the chance to share what he’s learned from the leaders and learning scientists in the Coulter Department.
Likewise, Abouelnasr has been immersed in the “other side” of an accreditation process. She helped develop a new master’s program at a university in the United Arab Emirates, all the way from determining the demand for the program to getting full accreditation. And she experienced the evaluator’s perspective when she was a scientist at the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
“Part of my responsibilities were to evaluate the efforts within several different programs and help to maintain standards and provide for continuous improvement throughout my division,” she said. “Much of this was similar to what my responsibilities will be as a program evaluator.”
Having three evaluators from Coulter BME builds on the College of Engineering’s long legacy of service to ABET, Benkeser said.
“This reflects well on the Georgia Tech community, when we have people who contribute like this,” he said. “We’re already a well-respected engineering program, of course, but this is another way to give back. And we have an obligation — we benefit from the work of all the volunteers at ABET.”
Benkeser would know: He’s in his second stint representing the Biomedical Engineering Society on the Engineering Accreditation Commission for ABET, which oversees all the organization’s engineering accreditation work. Benkeser also has the distinction of having served on more biomedical engineering accrediting committees than any other active evaluator.
For Behravesh’s part, he said he’s eager to get started: “The ideals of continuous improvement at the heart of ABET are very much aligned with the DNA of our Department.”