Engineering program receives ABET boost

After waiting three years, Weber State University’s first engineering degree received accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology last month. This means the program, which started in 2010, can now graduate students with a degree that meets international standards in applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.

This accreditation gives students a better chance of getting into graduate schools and engineering positions in the work force after graduation. Their degrees meet the standards and are fully qualified.

Kirk Hagen, the chair for the electronic engineering department, said that from the start, this program was politically charged.

“This program was really controversial,” Hagen said. “We proposed it (an engineering program) to the Board of Regents several years ago.”

Hagen said the program sat with the Board of Regents for a long time, and the board refused to vote on it because of input from other institutions.

Justin Jackson, an electronic engineering professor, agreed with Hagen, and said politics are to blame for WSU’s long wait.

“We have two state schools who have engineering degrees who have the market cornered, and they don’t want to share money and students,” Jackson said. “And engineering is a degree that, especially at research schools, brings in money to the university.”

According to Hagen, Brad Dee, a representative from Utah’s 11th House District, introduced a bill to the 2010 session of legislature to grant WSU this degree.

“We did it by legislation. We did it by passing a bill instead of going the regular route of having the Board of Regents grant a degree,” Hagen said. “Our president, Ann Millner at the time, and our provost were very supportive, very active in getting this through.”

Ever since the program’s first graduate, Heather Wokurka in December of 2011, the degree has seen an influx in popularity. The program currently boasts 255 students who declared electronic engineering as their major.

“A lot of students didn’t want to study an engineering curriculum, which is quite difficult, to get a degree that can’t get them a job,” Jackson said.

He said the accreditation from ABET was critical, and the department has seen a “bump in enrollment, especially since it’s now an accredited degree.”

Hagen said the accreditation process took a year and a half. The first step was to have a student actually graduate from the new program.

“As soon as Heather got her degree, that got the ball rolling, and we applied for accreditation,” Hagen said. “We sent a request to ABET to seek accreditation.”

Before a visit from an ABET accreditation team in 2012, the electronic engineering program had to write up a self-study report. After ABET’s annual meeting in July, it notified WSU on Aug. 19.

Jackson said the accreditation is retroactive, so previous graduates can reap the benefits of receiving a degree that will ensure them a job in the engineering field.

Wesley Mahurin and Kirk Carter are two students currently working on electronic engineering degrees. Mahurin said that if the program hadn’t received accreditation, he would’ve considered transferring universities.

“My plan was to transfer to the U of U and get 30 credits,” he said.

Carter agreed, saying that transferring either to the University of Utah or Utah State University was his backup plan.

“They’ve been telling us for a little bit that we were right on track to get (ABET accreditation), but that we’d just have to wait a little time,” Carter said. “It was a little tough last summer, because I felt like I was passed over on a few internships because of the program.”

Mahurin said the starting pay for electronic engineers in Ogden is around $50,000-$60,000.