North Carolina A&T State University (NCAT): 1st ABET-accredited Bioengineering Degree Program at an HBCU

February 23, 2017

Outcome/accomplishment:  As part of its education/outreach initiatives, ERC-RMB in 2009 initiated planning and implementation of MS and BS programs in Bioengineering. This included obtaining university and UNC-system-level approval for the programs and recruitment of faculty. ERC-RMB partner institution University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) provided knowledge and shared resources in curriculum and lab development.  Enrolling their first students in 2010 and 2011, respectively, the programs have grown their enrollments steadily. After graduation of their first cohort of BS students, the BMEN faculty hosted an ABET accreditation visit in the 2015-16 academic year. The curriculum was modified and enhanced based on ABET feedback, following which, the ABET sent NCAT an official letter of accreditation in Fall 2016 for the BS BMEN program, retroactive to October 2013. Now in addition to having the nation’s first seamless BS-MS BMEN program offerings at an HBCU, NCAT is the first HBCU to have an ABET-accredited BS program in bioengineering.

Impact/benefits:  The bioengineering educations program at NCAT spear-headed by ERC-RMB faculty, are providing students with learning and research experiences in bioengineering that will instill in them a lifelong sense of learning, social responsibility, and commitment to improving the quality of life for all people. The BS and MS bioengineering programs are continuously attracting a truly interdisciplinary student body, with current students drawn from across the engineering and sciences, from all over the nation. These activities are serving as a human resource pipeline, with BS and MS graduates proceeding to industry, medical school and graduate research programs on a national level. The strong diversity of the programs is reflected in the demographic data with a high level of enrollment of US nationals (~100% @ BS level, :~90% at MS level), high gender diversity (~60% female at BS level, ~70% at MS level) and underrepresented minority participation (~80-90% African-American in the two programs)

Explanation/ background:  The BS bioengineering program enrolled its first student in Spring 2011. The initial work toward gaining ABET accreditation of the program began in Fall 2011 with the creation of the initial ABET outcomes matrix. This matrix included ABET student outcomes a-k, and five additional BMEN-specific student outcomes. This matrix defines which of the required courses in the program are used in assessments to provide measures of attainment of each of the student outcomes. The matrix is used to guide the process of assessment for continuous improvement of the program. During the next years through to the present, new enrollment in the program increased each year. The program curriculum underwent a revision in Spring 2013 to align the general education courses with those for all programs in the College. In Fall 2014, the ABET outcomes matrix was revised to remove the five BMEN-specific student outcomes from the matrix. It was decided that student experiences in the five BMEN-specific student outcome areas were to be documented as part of the ABET program criteria for bioengineering or biomedical engineering programs. After this revision, the ABET outcomes a-k remained in the ABET outcomes matrix. A complete assessment of outcomes a-k according to the revised matrix was completed for the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 courses. The ABET self-study for the BS bioengineering at A&T was submitted to ABET in June 2015 to be evaluated for initial accreditation of the program. The chair requested accreditation be retroactive two years to cover all graduates of the program.  An ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission team visited A&T in Fall of 2015 to evaluate the BS bioengineering program.  Following the ABET visit and based on the team’s findings, the following 5 courses in the BS bioengineering program were modified: Two senior capstone design courses were modified to emphasize design criteria and alternative solutions and to include project problem summaries, one lab course was modified to add more measurements and analysis of living systems, one imaging and devices course description was modified to mention measurements and analysis of living systems and one human physiological systems course was modified to emphasize engineering analyses of systems.  These changes were described in a response sent to ABET in March 2016, and were approved by the faculty senate.  The changes were implemented in courses during Spring of 2016. Documentation showing the implementation of changes and showing that all students performed the measurements and analysis required in the ABET program criteria was submitted to ABET at the end of the Spring 2016 semester. Approval of the course changes by the Provost was obtained in Summer 2016. ABET sent a letter to A&T in Fall 2016 indicating the program’s status as an ABET accredited program. The date of the accreditation is retroactive to 10/01/2013.  This is the first ABET accredited BS bioengineering program at an HBCU.