Three Sacred Heart University School of Computer Science and Engineering programs were recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) this fall.
The accredited programs were computer science (CS), information technology (IT) and game design and development. This status will benefit current students, along with graduates from the past four years in these majors, according to a SHU press release.
“It’s like a seal of approval that says that the program you went to is top notch,” said Dr. Robert McCloud, associate dean of the Welch College of Business & Technology (WCBT), and director of SHU’s computer science programs. “What it’s saying is that you’re going to a place that has met the most rigorous standard in its field.”
This credential adds value to both students and their institutions, according to the ABET website.
“ABET accreditation assures confidence that a collegiate program has met standards essential to prepare graduates to enter critical STEM fields in the global workforce,” the ABET website said. “Graduates from an ABET-accredited program have a solid educational foundation and are capable of leading the way in innovation, emerging technologies and in anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.”
The process to receive this title started in 2015, as some classes and faculty had to be added to the programs to meet the ABET standards, according to Prof. Samah Senbel who was a key figure in putting the application together.
Dr. Catherine McCabe, dean of the WCBT, explained that after a program is approved for consideration, a one-year self-study is conducted.
“A self-study is a full-year of analysis and reporting on how the program learning goals have been achieved, how resources are being used for faculty and students, evidence that continuous improvement is in place and evidence that students are experiencing success after graduation,” McCabe said.
The IT program is the first of its kind to be accredited in Connecticut and the game design program is the second in the world to earn this status.
“Most gaming programs have very light courses. Our gaming program is actually the toughest one we have on campus, and popular,” Sanbel said. “This is proof that our gaming program is good, otherwise we wouldn’t have managed to get accredited.”
McCabe became the WCBT dean in July but said she was not surprised by the result of the accreditation application.
“It was clear, from day one, that the Welch College has outstanding programs and faculty with students who are eager to learn and succeed,” she said.
According to McCloud, the accreditors were not only impressed with the curriculum and faculty, but also the facilities that SHU offers students.
“Our undergraduates in any of these three programs can work in one of five laboratories. We’re able to say that we’re doing a lot of research, and the students are involved in the research with their professors,” he said. “Another thing that was impressive was our focus on ethics because every computer science student has to take a computer ethics course.”
Students, like senior IT major Gage Derrenbacher, are appreciative of what this status can do for them in the future.
“I hope that this accreditation will open me up to extra opportunities in any direction that I take with my career,” he said. “I think it exemplifies the standards that Sacred Heart and the program specifically holds its students to.”
McCabe spoke similarly of the benefit this recognition has for students in the future.
“Having an accredited program is a strong signal to employers that graduates have had the learning experiences needed to succeed professionally,” McCabe said. “It is also an indication that the learning journey includes content and skill building that leads to personal success as well.”