Nov 29, 2022

The James P. Keeter School of Engineering at College of the Ozarks receives accreditation

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — The six-year-old engineering program at College of the Ozarks has been granted accreditation this fall by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET.

College of the Ozarks designed The James P. Keeter School of Engineering with accreditation requirements in focus. A cornerstone of the ABET criteria is identifying the needs of the constituents, particularly employers, and then developing a program to meet those needs. The program was established in 2016, and the first engineers graduated from the College in 2020.

An engineering program must have graduates to apply for accreditation, so after the first engineering class graduated, the engineering faculty began submitting the formal accreditation request paperwork. Due to the pandemic, ABET delayed the College’s accreditation visit until 2021.

James P. Keeter was a long-time board member and supporter of College of the Ozarks, and his wife, Julie Keeter, serves as a current board member.

The accomplishments and milestones of the program during the first six years are noteworthy. The Bachelor of Science in Engineering prepares students for a wide range of engineering jobs in the industry and for specialized graduate programs in engineering and related fields. Graduates of the College’s engineering program are encouraged to take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, and their pass rate is higher than the national average. Following the completion of four years of engineering work and passing a second exam, graduates may apply to become licensed engineers.

The program’s graduates so far have gone on to a wide variety of positions, depending on their interests. Some of the graduates have pursued further education, completing master’s degrees, and one graduate is in a Ph.D. program. College of the Ozarks is the only Work College in the United States with a four-year engineering program.

“One of the most important milestones is seeing employers who have hired graduates come back for more interns and employees,” said Dr. Mark Nowack, professor, engineering program director, and chair of the mathematics, computer science and engineering division. “This is encouraging, a real vote of confidence. Students are finding jobs that are enjoyable and a good fit for them.”

The engineering department also has an advisory board consisting of engineers from the region who represent engineering employers and other stakeholders, including alumni. The advisory board was instrumental in setting the vision of the program, as well as providing input into its content and structure. Board members volunteer their time to help with content decisions and to help the students through mentoring and coaching on topics such as interview techniques.

“The feedback from our graduates and their employers about our program has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Geoffrey Akers, professor of engineering. “ABET accreditation is further validation that engineers who graduate from College of the Ozarks are prepared for the engineering profession. More than that, College of the Ozarks prepares engineers with the work ethic, professional skills, and Christian worldview that set our graduates apart from graduates of other programs.”

“We would not have been successful without the generous support of the College community,” Nowack said. “For example, math-physics graciously hosted us prior to our move to the Dee Ann White Engineering Center. They also adjusted the calculus sequence to better accommodate engineering students starting at different levels of mathematical skill development. Faculty have shared their best practices in areas ranging from assessment to writing skills. Additional sections of chemistry and physics were added to support our students.”

More about the James P. Keeter School of Engineering at College of the Ozarks

In the fall of 2016, the James P. Keeter School of Engineering was launched as an answer to inquiring students who yearned for a chance to experience the world of engineering and learn its complexities. The College chose Dr. Mark Nowack to lead and develop the program. After graduating from Penn State, Nowack spent 20 years in the Air Force in a variety of engineering and technical management positions in the United States and Japan, as well as completing his Ph.D. in the U.K. at the University of Cambridge.

From 2005 to 2013, he served as a consulting engineer for Schafer Corporation. While at Schafer, he provided systems engineering for the Boeing Company missile defense program and later supported several technology development programs at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA. He continues to consult in the area of automation for ground and air vehicles.

Nowack was joined on the engineering faculty by Dr. Geoff Akers in 2016. Akers, a native of Eminence, Missouri, joined the College after a distinguished 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force. 

Akers completed an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology), a master’s degree in electromagnetics at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a doctoral degree in radar signal processing at the University of Kansas. He also served on the faculty at the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he taught numerous courses, was rated by his students and peers as a top military instructor and served as deputy head of the electrical engineering department.

Akers brings a wealth of research, development, test, and teaching experience to the general engineering program.

The James P. Keeter School of Engineering is housed in the Dee Ann White Engineering Center. The building provides an efficient learning center for the engineering students and staff. The project consists of an 8,800 square-foot facility (Phase One) and 7,700 square-foot renovation of an existing structure. This structure accommodates two large laboratories, classrooms, administrative offices, a student lounge and building support spaces. The second facility, Phase Two, accommodates five specialized workshops, additional administrative offices, and support spaces.

The third facility, Phase Three, was completed in 2021 and consists of an 11,800 square-foot addition that includes specialized laboratories and associated systems, flexible classroom space, administrative offices, and a solar teaching platform.

The Dee Ann White Engineering Center Building was named after Dee Ann White, daughter of the late Arthur White and his wife, Ruth Ann White, of Springfield, Missouri. The Whites devoted their lives to philanthropy to directly help others, especially young people.

Six full-time team members make up the core team serving as instructors for the program.

More about ABET

ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental agency that accredits programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.

ABET accreditation provides assurance that a college or university program meets the quality standards of the profession for which that program prepares graduates. They accredit programs, not institutions. They provide specialized accreditation for post-secondary programs within degree-granting institutions already recognized by national or regional institutional accreditation agencies or national education authorities worldwide.

Their accreditation is voluntary, and to date, 4,361 programs at 850 colleges and universities in 41 countries have received ABET accreditation. Over 175,000 students graduate from ABET-accredited programs each year, and millions of graduates have received degrees from ABET-accredited programs since 1932.