Building Strong Geoscience Departments > Program Assessment > Accreditation > Barron on Accreditation

Eric Barron's Thoughts on Accreditation

Accreditation of geoscience programs is a topic under much discussion these days (early 2008). Eric Barron, Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, offers his thoughts on the subject. Eric sent this message to the Building Strong Geoscience Departments email list on March 19, 2008.

The discussions to date on accreditation have been quite interesting. I had the pleasure of being dean at a college that had 5 departments and 4 institutes in which two of the departments included 7 ABET programs (Materials Sciences with 4 separate degree programs, Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering, Mining Engineering, GeoEnvironmental Engineering). I also had Geosciences in my portfolio. I participated in the ABET process for all of my degrees as a dean. There are many pluses and minuses.



There is a move afoot by many major institutions to push back on ABET (MIT doesn't participate in Engineering ABET and I can tell you that their students do just fine because we know they do a good job and we see student transcripts and see what they have taken). The push back is also occurring because of the perception that the advice is becoming self-serving for the discipline and because ABET is used as an excuse to not change.

My view is that there are many ways to get the items in the PLUS column, but if we create an ABET for the geosciences we have the potential to end up with many of the negatives. That isn't what we are after - so come up with a proposal that enhances credibility and helps us do a better job and I am all for it. Mimic ABET, and I will bet that we will regret a tightly wound formal review that makes every program the same. I do not think Texas will play if we perceive a system that saps our creativity in exchange for an anointed degree.

Eric Barron
Dean, Jackson School of Geosciences
University of Texas at Austin

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