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ABET Gives Engineering Accreditation to Course II-A

By Masha Kamenetska

Course II-A (Mechanical Engineering) has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Students graduating from this major will now receive a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering upon graduation.

Before the accreditation, students who chose the Course II-A path received a Bachelor of Science, rather than a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering.

Course II-A offers students the opportunity to study mechanical engineering while also focusing on another area of academic interest.

Accreditation called unimportant

“[I do] not believe the lack of accreditation makes any difference,” wrote Head of Course II-A Seth Lloyd on the Course II-A Web page. “The record shows that II-A graduates have been no less successful in getting into graduate school than regular Course II students.”

Some Course II-A students agree that the state of accreditation was not vital to their choice of major.

Jeremy D. Schwartz ’05 and Sheila A. Longo ’05 both said that they would have chosen Course II-A even if it did not get accredited this year.

“I want to do what I want to do,” Longo said. “It’s just a title.”

Accreditation still meaningful

While the state of accreditation might not be crucial to some, these efforts are nonetheless appreciated by members of the Course II community.

Mary K. Thompson G, former president of the MIT chapter of Pi Tau Sigma, the national mechanical engineering society, said that everyone in Course II is “excited” about the accreditation. “This development is very good news and it reflects the effort of the mechanical engineering faculty, staff, and students who worked with the accreditation board to make this possible,” she said.

“When I found out [Course II-A] was going to be accredited this year, I thought, ‘so much the better,’” Schwartz said.

II-A allows many options for study

Lloyd points out on the Course II-A Web page that “II-A is a sort of a dual degree” in mechanical engineering as well as in the concentration that the student selects.

Longo, for example, wants to study II-A with an emphasis on Art and Architecture, a degree which would allow her to pursue a career in design with a solid engineering background. While she said she is not sure what exactly she wants to do, she believes that as she continues in the major and “learn[s] more, [her] options will open up.”

Much effort put into accreditation

Regardless of its importance, accreditation did take a considerable amount of effort on the part of members of engineering and mechanical engineering departments. Undergraduate Academic Administrative for the Mechanical Engineering Department Peggy E. Garlick, who helped Administrative Assistant Doris Elsemiller compile the necessary information for the ABET, said that the process required a lot of work.

She said that she had to collect “the syllabus, the book, everything” from faculty members that had taught Course II-A classes in the past.

Garlick, Elsemiller, and others organized the collected information into a booklet, which was then sent to ABET.

ABET accreditation unique

Although accreditation from program-specific organizations such as ABET has not been received for some MIT programs, the university as a whole has always been accredited by the New England Association for Schools and Colleges.

As a result of the NEASC accreditation, every MIT major is entitled to a Bachelor of Science or Arts. However, some courses of study fall “under different accrediting standards” than those enforced by NEASC, and therefore require accreditation by separate organizations, according to Coordinator for Institutional Research Beatrice A. Frain.

Frain said that ABET has “stringent accreditation requirements” that are difficult to satisfy.