Accreditation of fisheries and wildlife programs

Charles G. Scalet, Ira R. Adelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Program accreditation has been debated for many years by fisheries and wildlife professionals as a way of improving educational quality, conferring professional recognition, facilitating employment decisions regarding hiring and promotion, and providing numerous other possible benefits. We discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of program accreditation and give examples of current accreditation or similar systems for professional evaluation and recognition. We believe the potential benefits of an accreditation program would not be sufficient to counteract its many significant disadvantages, and such a program would be redundant with the current certification programs of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) and The Wildlife Society (TWS) and other program review methods. Because of the difficulty of reaching agreement within the fisheries and wildlife professions and the resistance of colleges and universities to accept new accreditation programs, we believe there is little likelihood of accreditation of fisheries or wildlife programs being implemented in the foreseeable future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-13
Number of pages6
JournalFisheries
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
When accreditation has been evaluated by AFS committees, the recommendation has been negative. The AFS 1983-84 Professionalism Committee opposed AFS establishment of an accreditation program (Cole et al. 1986), and in lieu of accreditation, AFS established the University Program Standards Committee to develop criteria for students in evaluating university fisheries programs (Adelman et al. 1990). As fisheries and wildlife academic program administrators, we (the authors) do not support accreditation. We believe potential benefits would not be sufficient to counteract the many significant disadvantages of accreditation. We are not convinced sufficient problems exist with the quality of fisheries and wildlife education to warrant accreditation as a cure. University fisheries and wildlife programs are not academically stagnant. They seem to rapidly incorporate new professional needs into their curricula without the pressure of accreditation. A 1993 survey conducted by the Academic Programs Committee of the National Association of University Fisheries and Wildlife Programs found that of the 39 member universities responding (89% response rate) (1) 69% had recently developed or were planning to develop a capstone course, (2) 62% had increased writing and speaking exercises in their courses, (3) 69% had or were planning a communications intensive requirement, and (4) 56% had recently added or were planning to add to the human dimensions aspects of their curriculum. These are changes documented in the report. While some might contend that more could be done, the changes indicate that fisheries and wildlife programs are constantly evolving. An accreditation program is not necessary for programs to be reviewed. Our own land-grant programs participate in CSRS reviews, and we are aware of and have participated in reviews of programs at non-land-grant universities. Thus, any fisheries and wildlife program that wishes to be reviewed or is required by their university to be reviewed can arrange for such. We believe certifi-Acknowledgments cation of individuals We thank Richard Noble and Kristin as now practiced by Merriman for their thoughtful sugges-AFS and TWS is a tions for improving the manuscript. successful process This work was supported in part by toward ensuring the the Minnesota Agricultural Experi-competency of those ment Station, Project MIN 41-075, and entering the profes-the South Dakota Agricultural Exper-sion, and adding iment Station, Project 281071. accreditation would be redundant. If strengthening certification requirements is desirable, that mechanism is in place. SAF decided to implement a certification program for foresters (Smith 1994), suggesting to us that accreditation alone was not satisfactory for assuring the credentials of forestry professionals. Interestingly, to become certified, a forester will not have to graduate from an accredited forestry program. P. G. Smith, SAF director of science and education, reports that SAF will consider the continued viability of its accreditation program as individual certification becomes fully operational. The key factor will be how academicians and employers believe certification affects educational quality and individual competency (P. G. Smith, SAF, personal communication).

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