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Auburn's BSCI Faculty Impact ACCE through Service

REPRINT Feb 14, 2024 by Tom Wofford

Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science (BSCI) boasts a rich history with the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE), the accreditation organization that evaluates construction programs every seven years.

BSCI School Head Richard Burt has been involved with ACCE for more than 20 years. He serves on the ACCE Board of Trustees and oversees the international task force on accreditation.

“I became more active with ACCE after I came to Auburn in 2008,” said Burt. “Over the years, Auburn faculty have earned an excellent reputation for their involvement with ACCE. We are likely the most involved of any program.”

Upon joining the BSCI faculty in 2017, Tom Leathem, Wilborn Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Chair, was already actively involved in an ACCE committee. These days, he’s focused on training faculty across the country to participate in accreditation teams.

“One significant effort I’ve undertaken is the development of new training programs to align with ACCE’s recent shift to an outcome-based performance model,” Leathem shared. “While the previous model focused more on credit hours and curriculum, the current approach assesses a range of outcomes.”

Leathem notes that numerous faculty expressed concern and apprehension when the ACCE guidelines underwent changes in 2016.

“A colleague from Arizona State and I shared a keen interest in the updated guidelines,” he explained. “It became evident that there was a big need to enhance the skills of faculty members.”

Recognizing that some educators transition from construction and construction management rather than instructional roles, Leathem and his colleague organized a two-day workshop on the fundamentals of teaching. ACCE subsequently asked that the workshop be formalized into a certificate program.

“The program is still in its infancy,” Leathem said. “Our vision is that this certificate will evolve into a recognition of formal training, indicating that the faculty are well-prepared to excel as educators. We believe that establishing this initiative was a way for ACCE to contribute to the enhancement of teaching quality.”

The emphasis on enhancing faculty qualifications through the certificate program aligns with ACCE’s updated accreditation model, which adopts a more holistic approach and positions construction management programs nationwide to be more well-rounded.

“Curriculum is a big piece,” Leathem said, “but so is program resources. Do they have the right number of faculty? Are the faculty appropriately qualified? Do they have the appropriate number and type of support staff? Do they have the appropriate facilities? Do they get appropriate support from their universities? Is the program regularly evaluating itself for weaknesses and opportunities and are they creating a plan they can act on?”

The dedication to ACCE within Auburn’s faculty extends beyond Burt and Leathem. Associate Professor Eric Wetzel and Senior Lecturer Drew Yantis have also devoted significant time and effort over the years.

“Twenty years ago, I was the chair of the ACCE training committee,” Yantis shared. “That got me started. Then I was part of the marketing committee.”

Before joining BSCI in 2021, Yantis served as Senior Vice President of Holder Construction, where he played a key role in Holder’s recruitment of Auburn Building Science students. He estimates that he has hired nearly 200 students from Auburn’s program over the years.

His extensive service to ACCE, coupled with his industry experience and tenure as a member of the BSCI faculty, has deepened his appreciation for the value that a robust accreditation process and reputable accreditation agency bring to faculty, students, future employers and the industry.

“ACCE is an excellent way to get involved and make a significant impact on the future of construction education,” Yantis said.



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