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USM’s Ocean Engineering Program Receives Accreditation through ABET

Wed, 10/04/2023 - 10:36am | By: Gabriela Shinskie


The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Ocean Science and Engineering’s (SOSE) Bachelor’s degree program in Ocean Engineering has been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. ABET accreditation assures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields that are leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies, and anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.

Dr. Robert Leaf, Interim Director of the SOSE, said this accreditation would not have been made possible without his team: Dr. Gero Nootz, Dr. Mahdi Razaz, Kemal Cambazoglu, all Assistant Professors in Ocean Engineering, and Dr. Jerry Wiggert, Professor in the Division of Marine Science.

“Supporting this blue economy initiative in Mississippi is critical. The accreditation confirms the role of USM in promoting the Blue Economy and highlights the return on investment that undergraduate students participating in this program will realize. This is a program that will continue to serve the demands of our business leaders for high-quality and well-trained engineering talent,” said Leaf.

Through an ABET accreditation, students can be confident that they are acquiring a top-notch education that can enhance future employment and career opportunities. The value of the accreditation is significant and can help acquire eligibility to various grants and scholarships. The accreditation is recognized globally with many jobs now requiring graduation from an ABET-accredited program. Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected because it adds critical value to academic programs in the technical disciplines, where quality, precision and safety are of the utmost importance.

“Students graduating from the program helps them advance in their career. It’s just a testament of the high quality of the program,” said Cambazoglu.

Cambazoglu acknowledges that he has been receiving emails from high school students asking if USM’s Ocean Engineering program is accredited.

The accreditation was a tedious but rewarding journey when Wiggert first helped start the Ocean Engineering program in 2017. Once programs have graduated their first student, they are eligible for accreditation. Those on the team were responsible for completing a readiness review, evaluation requests, and a self-study report resulting in an on-site visit by the ABET commission. Due to the dedicated work of the entire OE team, the program gained accreditation in the sorest possible time since its inception.

“Our program was designed to pursue ABET Accreditation. Through the journey up until the accreditation, we worked on continuous improvements to the program,” said Cambazoglu. Developed by technical professionals from ABET’s member societies, ABET criteria focus on what students experience and learn. ABET accreditation reviews look at program curricula, faculty, facilities, and institutional support and are conducted by teams of highly skilled professionals from industry, academia and government, with expertise in the ABET disciplines.

Christopher Hayes, Associate Professor of Marine Science and Interim Associate Director of the SOSE, said this establishes the program as one of a select few accredited ocean engineering programs in the United States. He emphasized the importance of the proximity of the coast to Coastal USM campuses and the advantages it has to offer.

“We have the advantage of being right on the coast so students can get experience testing technology and using facilities where there is a lot of maritime industry going on,” said Hayes.


The Ocean Engineering labs are housed in Lloyd Hall at the Gulf Park campus and have provided quality experiences and education through technological advances and critical thinking. Many students credit the program for a boost in the start of their careers.

“The strengths are the uniqueness of the program and what it teaches and how the OE professors take time to provide a quality education. I feel like I was taught very well when I am at work, and I can tell that a specific engineering degree like OE helped prepare me for my job,” said one student.

Students also sang praises to the caring faculty and staff along with the use of equipment for projects. Undergraduates felt the curriculum helped them relate to real-world scenarios to prepare them for careers after graduation.

“It was a process to come to this level. We are now one of the only eight ABET-accredited ocean engineering programs in the nation. Besides, USM offers the only ocean engineering program in the state of Mississippi,” said Cambazoglu. “That really makes it unique.”

About ABET: ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization. It currently accredits 4,564 programs at 895 colleges and universities in 40 countries and areas. More information about ABET, its member societies and the accreditation criteria used to evaluate programs can be found on their website.

Learn more about USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering.