Mike Phillips' Thoughts on Accreditation

Accreditation of geoscience programs is a topic under much discussion these days (early 2008). Mike Phillips, Geology Professor at Illinois Valley Community College, offers his thoughts on the subject. Mike sent this message to the Building Strong Geoscience Departments email list on March 19, 2008.

IF geology goes the accreditation route, WE will/should set the standards. It may be that there are different standards for BA and BS [degrees], but it will be up to us. I would suspect that some, if not most, of the people participating in this [email list] discussion will set the standards, so I do not think the fear of an imposed set of criteria should be as great as it appears to be.

My concern is that once out in the job world, the current lack of standardization hurts our graduates. We have been working for years to obtain licensing/certification status and to have professional credentials recognized as valid for signing off on geological work. The logical extension of this effort is to standardize, at least to some extent, programs and curricula. We all enjoy the freedom academia provides, we all like to teach what we think is important and direct our students in ways that we feel will be beneficial, but some core standards might well benefit our graduates.

As a community college faculty person, I would like to be sure my intro-level courses meet the needs of the universities to which my students will transfer. Because they could go anywhere, a lack of any standards is problematic. In addition, when my students ask me to help them choose a school, I am often at a loss when comparing one program to another. I suspect this also arises when students are choosing graduate schools and grad schools are looking at students.

I would not advocate a rigid curriculum nor any other requirements that would make all programs the same. I do think that developing a set of core standards for a BA and BS and a set of guidelines describing how these core standards could be met would be good for geology, good for the departments, and good for the students. And again, we should set the standards and tie them to the professional and transfer goals we have for our graduates.

Mike Phillips
Geology Professor
Illinois Valley Community College