posted September 29, 2000

Engineering Degree Accredited

The Bachelor of Science in Engineering
at Hope College has received accreditation from the
Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation
Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

The accreditation follows the department's first
attempt for the recognition. Hope established the major in
1997.

"ABET is the national accrediting agency in
engineering, and their recognition is an important
indication of the quality of the engineering program at
Hope," said Dr. John Krupczak Jr., who is director of the
college's engineering program and an associate professor of
engineering. "It tells employers and graduate schools that
our alumni come from a program that meets standards
important in the profession, and it tells prospective
students that they can expect their education here to meet
those standards."

ABET outlines several outcomes for the graduates
produced by engineering programs, ranging from an ability to
apply mathematics, science and engineering appropriate to
the discipline; to the ability to function on multi-
disciplinary teams; to an understanding of professional and
ethical responsibility; to a knowledge of contemporary
issues.

Krupczak believes that Hope, as a liberal arts
college requiring students to take classes in many fields,
is well positioned to instruct its students on the variety
of levels recommended by ABET.

"The engineering profession has recognized that it
needs liberal arts-trained students," Krupczak said.
"Engineering is one of the world's most global professions.
We live in an era of worldwide corporations and inter-
connections, and engineers must confront not only technical
but also ethical, legal and social issues in their work. A
liberal arts background is now being seen as an asset to
engineers, when 20 years ago it was seen as a liability and
all they needed to know was how to crunch numbers."

Many students have embraced the variety of options
at the college. The department has even had students
double-major in dance, finding a natural link to both
disciplines through biomechanical engineering.

The program has five full-time faculty. Some five
percent of the students who apply to Hope indicate an
interest in engineering, and about 13 students graduate with
a major each year. A survey of graduates from 1996 to 1998
found that 100 percent were either employed in engineering
or attending graduate school; every member of the Class of
2000 who applied to engineering graduate school was accepted
by a program and received either a fellowship or an
assistantship.

The accredited major requires 48 hours of
coursework in engineering, as well as additional work in
other science disciplines and mathematics. In addition to
courses like "Computer Aided Design," "Thermodynamics" and
"Fluid Mechanics," students work in teams with local
industry to solve real-life design problems, and often find
summer internships in engineering with corporations.

The opportunity to work closely with faculty
members is important to students in the program, and
something they realize that doesn't happen everywhere.
Kellie Bleecker, a junior from Mount Pleasant who was
originally drawn to Hope by the "wide variety of good
programs," noted that she appreciates that Hope's professors
can and do give students individual attention.

Jay Thwaites, a junior from Grand Rapids, had also
visited a large engineering school when making his college
choice, and appreciated Hope's more personal approach at the
outset. "I thought the program and facilities equally good
here, but I like this atmosphere 100 times better," he said.

Bleecker and Thwaites were among the students who
spent this summer conducting engineering research on campus-
-as was their peer Christine Immink, a junior from Hamilton,
who noted, "I like the idea that I could come in and do
research. It was open to any of us."

Engineering instruction began at Hope about 25
years ago, when in response to student interest Dr. James
van Putten started teaching a course in electronics through
the department of physics. Student interest grew, and in
the next decade-and-a-half more courses were added, as was a
second faculty member with expertise in engineering.

In 1993, the "engineering physics" program
received one of only three grants in engineering nationwide
from the U.S. Department of Education so that it could be
further developed for use as a model by other liberal arts
colleges. Through the grant, the curriculum was expanded,
more professors were added--and suddenly the scope of what
was happening at the college had changed. "The result was
that we discovered that we didn't have an engineering
physics program," van Putten said. "We had a bachelor of
science in engineering program."

According to van Putten, the expansion was
originally intended to bring to engineering the same methods
that Hope had been using successfully in preparing students
for graduate work in other science disciplines. "The
national need there is that only about 45 percent of all
Ph.D. graduates in the United States in engineering are U.S.
citizens or permanent U.S. residents," he said.

Particularly as the opportunities for hands-on
learning have increased, though, he feels that the program
serves equally well the 40 percent of engineering majors who
choose to go directly into industry. "Since about 90
percent of all engineers do go into industry eventually,
this has helped prepare those bound for graduate school for
their eventual positions in addition to helping students who
want to take a job right out of college."

The ABET accreditation provides a concluding high
point for van Putten, who retired from the faculty at the
end of the 1999-2000 academic year after devoting a quarter
century to shepherding the program's progress.

"It's a good time to retire," he said. "The
program is underway, and I think it's going to grow."

"There are more engineers than in any profession
except K-12 school teachers. It is a very big profession.
There is a high demand," van Putten said. "I see no reason
why in 10 years we shouldn't have twice the number of majors
that we have now."

Click for more information about the college's engineering program.