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UND Aerospace programs fly through reaccreditation

The reaccreditation of three Aerospace programs continues a trend of aviation excellence

UND’s fleet of aircraft is seen gathered at the University’s location at Grand Forks International Airport. Photo by UND Aerospace

Three UND Aerospace programs have been reaccredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International.

AABI President Guy Smith sent notice of the completed accreditation process to UND President Andrew Armacost and senior leaders in the John. D Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the beginning of August.

Notably, AABI again waived the requirement for a subsequent report that many universities must file to address any deficiencies that the accreditation organization might have found. UND has not been required to file follow-up paperwork with AABI since 2002, marking an impressive stretch of excellence in aviation education.

“The reaccreditation of three vital programs in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is a powerful statement on the quality of aviation education the University of North Dakota provides,” said Armacost. “I commend our aerospace school’s faculty and staff for making UND a world leader in the vital fields of commercial aviation, air traffic control and uncrewed aircraft systems operations.”

Armacost continued: “In swiftly reaffirming these degreed programs, the Aviation Accreditation Board International noted our university’s commitment to excellence in aviation education. It’s a stellar example of how UND assists the state, the nation and the world in meeting today’s workforce needs and in developing tomorrow’s leaders for a wide range of aviation fields.”

Accreditation through AABI runs in five-year intervals, meaning the reaffirmed UND Aerospace programs are accredited through July 2027. Generally, the reaccreditation process is started two years prior to the expiration of a program’s accreditation.

The Aerospace degree programs reaffirmed by AABI are:

  • B.S. in Commercial Aviation, reviewed by AABI Flight Education
  • B.S. in Air Traffic management, reviewed by AABI Air Traffic Control
  • B.S. in Unmanned Aircraft Operations, reviewed by AABI Unmanned Aircraft Systems

“On behalf of the AABI Board of Trustees, congratulations and thank you for the confidence you have placed in AABI and the commitment that you have evidenced toward quality aviation education through membership and successful reaffirmation of three programs,” wrote Smith, the AABI president, in a letter announcing the reaccreditation.

Andrew Leonard, assistant professor of Aviation, and the person who headed the reaccreditation effort, said a culture of continuous improvement within UND Aerospace led to the streamlined reaccreditation of the three programs.

“We’re continuously looking into how we get better, how we improve our technology and how we improve the courses we’re teaching,” Leonard said. “We’re not perfect but we recognize that, so we have processes in place to identify if we have a weakness. We’re very good about putting a plan together on how we take that weakness and improve on it.”

Leonard said the reaccreditation process began in the summer of 2020. It took about a year to compile a 1,400-page report that was submitted to the accrediting body. After Accreditation Committee members at AABI reviewed that report, they came to UND for an onsite visit in the spring of 2022. Members met with Armacost, UND Provost Eric Link and Robert Kraus, dean of UND Aerospace, over a three-day period.

“We are always looking at how we can improve the education and services we offer to our students, such as upgraded simulators, newer technologies in the classrooms and aircraft, and embedding a safety culture in all our operations,” said Kraus. “This reaccreditation validates what we have been doing since the inception of each of our programs. The University’s theme is ‘Leaders in Action,’ and our students and graduates exemplify that. We have graduated more than 13,000 students that have gone on to professional aerospace careers and our aviation programs continue to educate, train, and inspire students to lifelong careers in the industry.”

Elizabeth Bjerke, associate dean of UND Aerospace, said the fact that UND has not been required to file an interim report in 20 years speaks to the quality of instruction and overall integrity of the University’s Aerospace programs.

Bjerke previously served nine years on the AABI Board of Trustees as well as the Accreditation Board, a term of service she devoted to improving the standards of aviation education. She said universities with aviation programs are commonly required to complete interim reports for AABI. Bjerke praised Leonard for his leadership during the reaccreditation process, as well as all aviation faculty and staff.

“The fact that our aviation program continues to excel in earning accreditation status speaks highly to the dedication and devotion our aviation faculty and staff have at UND to ensure student learning occurs at the highest level,” Bjerke said. “Leading this effort was Dr. Andrew Leonard, who does an amazing job coordinating the assessment and accreditation activities for the department of aviation.”

The Aviation Accreditation Board International is made up of trustees in both higher education and the aviation industry, as well as trade association and international trustees. Accreditation through AABI is meant to ensure that programs perform to such a level of quality and integrity that they earn the public’s trust, and the trust of the educational community they serve.