Cornell College engineering major becomes ABET accredited


By Jill Hawk

Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa has become recognized for its engineering program, as it has secured accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for its bachelor of science in engineering (B.S.E.), following an intensive multi-year review process. 

“I am proud of my colleagues and the college for going through the rigorous and thorough ABET accreditation process,” says Cornell College Assistant Professor of Engineering Niloofar Kamran. “We knew we were doing a great job in training engineers, and the ABET accreditation gives us the official validation.”

This accreditation makes Cornell one of only 812 colleges and universities in 32 countries to achieve this milestone. ABET says students who graduate from accredited schools enhance their employment opportunities, especially because multinational corporations require graduation from an accredited program.

“This accreditation places our program among elite engineering schools across the nation. This will open new career paths to our students, both past and present,” says Cornell College Assistant Professor of Engineering Brian Johns. “There are fewer than 100 colleges across the nation that have attained our specific type of accreditation, with Cornell College standing out as one of the smallest schools to accomplish this feat.”

The work to get to this point started back in 2013 when the college began considerations to add engineering courses. In the spring of 2017, the Department of Physics and Engineering proposed a Bachelor of Science in Engineering as the first Bachelor of Science to be offered by Cornell College. When Cornell’s B.S.E. was established, the curriculum was designed so that it could receive accreditation from ABET. 

“We train highly-skilled engineering students using the one-of-a-kind block schedule for an engineering experience that cannot be replicated anywhere,” Johns explains. “The accreditation ensures we have a system in place to review, revise, and improve our program as our rapidly-changing discipline evolves. This milestone may have appeared as an overnight success, but, behind the scenes, it has included nearly a decade of research, planning, and improvement to achieve ABET accreditation.”  

Professors report that since the inception of the engineering program, Cornell College graduates have maintained a 100-percent job placement in engineering fields. Professors also routinely work with graduates to gather input about the program to create continuous improvements for the next generation of graduates. Professors who are part of this growing program say they are continuously impressed by the students and enjoy teaching them on the block plan, where they can truly focus on the material as they take One Course At A Time.

“It’s extremely rewarding! I see my students’ growth daily,” Kamran notes. “I watch them grow from high school graduates to responsible and knowledgeable professionals in four years. The block plan allows me to get to know them very well, to learn about their personalities and their strengths. When teaching an engineering course, I spend extended hours each day communicating, talking, and solving problems with my students. This gives me a solid understanding of their grasp of the subject and lets me help them in the best way possible.”

The engineering program is housed in the newly renovated West Science Hall, which includes a large fabrication lab for engineering and physics students. 

Cornell College, a selective liberal arts college, has a student population of about 1,000 students. Cornellians have been living, learning, and teaching on the block plan, One Course At A Time, for 40 years. This style of learning allows students to fully immerse themselves in their chosen topic of study, including taking field trips, diving into research, creating an art exhibit, or exploring issues in the local community.