Northern New Mexico College now has both of its engineering technology programs nationally accredited, providing career opportunities for students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Northern offers two engineering technology bachelor’s degrees: Electromechanical Engineering Technology (EMET) and Information Engineering Technology (IET).
The EMET program received its first accreditation this year, while the IET program was first accredited in 2014 and renewed this year by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) on the six-year cycle.
Northern Engineering Chair Sadia Ahmed said electromechanical engineering has more to do with mechanical parts and electrical parts, including robotics, fluid mechanics and hydraulics. Information engineering technology includes computer networking, programming, database applications and cybersecurity.
Ahmed said the College applied for accreditation last year and submitted a self-study report about the program. An ABET team then visited the campus to see the programs and talk to faculty members, students and alumni.
ABET then submits a draft of the report, and after editing and processing gives a final report and the accreditation status.
Ahmed said it was a rigorous process. She compares it to an organic certification on a food. There are criteria, including number of graduates and enrollment in classes and courses offered.
Ahmed said there were 30 people in the EMET program last school year, and 57 in the IET program. The EMET program has one full-time faculty and two half-time, and the IET program has three full-time faculty.
“Employers want to see that the students graduated from a solid program,” Ahmed said. “When they see it is ABET-accredited, that means the student went through a very rigorous program or a standard program, and the student will be able perform what they’re supposed to perform in their professional field.”
The IET program began in 2015, she said. They have an advisory committee meeting every year and incorporate changes.
For the EMET program, which was re-accredited this year, Ahmed said they need to show continuous improvements, with lab updates and course changes.
The programs now have an additional challenge in having to transition to remote learning.
“I love the interaction between students,” Ahmed said. “When I ask a question, I need something to come from the students. Students ask questions, yeah you can do that over Zoom, you can do that, but it’s not the exact environment.”
Students do not have the normal hands-on labs. Ahmed said some labs can be run on the computer, but internet connection is a struggle for many students.
Ahmed teaches programming and database classes, and said these classes and most of the IET program is easier to do online because most of the material is already on the computer.
The EMET courses would normally have physical labs with equipment needed, but can’t with the campus closed. Instead, Ahmed said, those students are using software computer simulations for labs.
According to a press release, many EMET students began as interns at Los Alamos National Laboratory and now hold full-time positions, while others have gone to pursue graduate degrees.