Sure bet: ABET appointment a boon for GCU
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Janet Brelin-Fornari has achieved much in her mechanical engineering career. She was an expert witness who specialized in collision analysis for General Motors, did extensive work in pediatric crash safety and was an instructor for Kettering University in Flint, Mich., before coming to Grand Canyon University last fall as its new Associate Dean of Engineering.
Now she has achieved yet one more professional honor.
Brelin-Fornari recently received a prestigious appointment to the Board of Delegates of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. She will be representing the Society of Women Engineers on the ABET board, whose delegates from 36 member societies set policy, develop strategy and conduct accreditation activities worldwide on behalf of their professions.
She also will be representing GCU.
College of Science, Engineering and Technology Dean Dr. Mark Wooden said Brelin-Fornari’s appointment to such an influential body — ABET represents more than 1.5 million professionals in nearly every country in the world — acknowledges “that she is seen as an expert and leader who will not only be bringing her engineering expertise from industry and academia to the table but the voice for diversity and inclusion.”
Wooden said GCU will have a front-row seat to ABET’s criteria and standards for accreditation, and to best practices, which will help GCU be successful in future engineering and technology programs. The contacts Brelin-Fornari will make as a delegate with academic and industry experts will be invaluable, he added, and the appointment will bring even more visibility to GCU’s engineering program, which the University launched in 2015.
“We have this voice at the international level on a board like this,” Brelin-Fornari said.
As a delegate, she will be exposed to cutting-edge engineering education ideas while also giving engineering education input to the ABET board. And on a more far-reaching scope, she will be looking at engineering education and aligning it with what ABET’s members see as valuable to improve the quality of education in the engineering and technology fields.
In short, she said, “We want to make sure we have quality engineers in the industry, and that when the industry hires an engineer from an ABET-accredited institution, they know what they’re getting.”
Brelin-Fornari answered a call from SWE last year for applicants. She made it to a pool of six before finding out she would be the one to represent that organization on the board.
“I was told it was very rigorous; they received more applications than they were expecting,” said the new associate dean, who joined the GCU faculty this academic year after 20 years at Kettering University.
Brelin-Fornari taught mechanical engineering there and served as the director of the Kettering University Crash Safety Center and the Kettering Center for Integrated Learning Experiences. She also embraced her passion for pediatric crash safety and has spent many years working on the certification of child safety seats in vehicles. For nine years, she has worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in developing a side-impact standard for child seats.
Brelin-Fornari was speaking on a panel for SWE last year when she decided to join the organization: “This was my opportunity to be able to bring a voice to women engineers,” she said.
It was through SWE that she decided to apply for the ABET Board of Delegates. She wants to advocate for diversity, not just in engineering, but in engineering education.
She sees GCU as a place with a very different mindset when it comes to diversity.
“Here, it’s valued for us to look at diversity and to give a voice to diversity. … That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it (apply to be on the ABET Board of Delegates).”
Added Wooden of Brelin-Fornari’s appointment, “Having the University name represented on this important board shows the level of expertise at GCU and that we care about quality undergraduate engineering education.”
Senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.
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