Current Issue
(Fall 2005)

Table of Contents

Speed Ahead of the Curve

No doubt many of you have heard the popular radio show, A Prairie Home Companion, wherein host Garrison Keillor reports on the weekly news from a fictional town. He begins his monologues with, "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown."

Dean Mickey Wilhelm
Dean Mickey Wilhelm

Well, it has certainly NOT been a quiet period at Speed School since our last report! We have been busy hiring new faculty and staff members, obtaining approval for a new degree, attracting new funding for sponsored research, building new facilities, successfully competing in national and international student events, and, of course, educating our talented engineering students.

This issue of Speed Engineer reports on many of these important happenings in our school. I hope you find it interesting and informative. We also can be proud because trends under way nationally in engineering accreditation show that Speed in many ways has been ahead of the curve. Let me explain.

Speed School alumni know that our degree programs have always required five calendar years to complete. Before 1970, students earned baccalaureate degrees after successfully completing five years of study. Then, after 1970, the school adopted the professional school model touted at the time as the best one for the education of engineers. In this model, students earn a baccalaureate degree after four calendar years of study, but the first Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited degree is the Master of Engineering after an additional year of specialized study.

Even though the baccalaureate degrees awarded to Speed students meet the criteria for basic-level accreditation by ABET, its policy forbids dual-level accreditation, i.e., the accreditation of multiple degrees in the same discipline at an institution. Obviously, we at Speed School would like the option of having both the B.S. degrees accredited at the basic level and M.Eng. degrees accredited at the advanced level, as they are now, in each of the engineering disciplines we offer.

As it turns out, there is mounting interest from very influential organizations such as the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which are recommending that ABET policy be changed to permit dual-level accreditation. The academy is joined by the American Society of Civil Engineers and several leaders from industry and engineering education in advocating that the masters degree be the first professional engineering degree, and that the traditional four academic year baccalaureate degree be viewed as a preparatory one.

This national debate is just beginning to heat up, and Speed School is very much involved since we have had in effect since 1970 exactly the kind of curriculum model espoused by those groups advocating change

I encourage you to get a copy of the new report from NAE dealing with this issue. I think you will find that the J. B. Speed School of Engineering has been a lone pioneer in engineering education for at least the last 35 years, if not for its entire 80-year history.

Copies of Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century are available this summer from the National Academies Press. Call them at 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242, or order on the Internet at

Mickey Wilhelm


Return to Top

Table of Contents