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Faculty perspective on Academic Equivalency: John Shortle

Sep 10, 2022
Mrunmayi Joshi

Here is an interview with John Shortle of George Mason University which talks about his experience and perspective as faculty of the academic equivalency program. Happy SEPtember! 

John Shortle
This interview was done in 2022.

Q1. What is your role related to INCOSE’s Academic Equivalency?

»  I helped to coordinate our department's submission to obtain academic equivalency.

Q2. What is one of your proudest professional achievements?

» Co-authoring the textbook Fundamentals of Queueing Theory has been one of my most satisfying professional accomplishments. The book is widely read and I get a lot of feedback and questions. I’m most proud when people comment that a particular part of the book was presented in a clear way and really helped them to understand the material.

Q3. What skills do you think a systems engineer should develop during their education?

» The ABET engineering student outcomes are all excellent skills that undergraduate systems engineering students should develop (solving complex problems that meet diverse needs, communicating effectively, conducting experiments, functioning on teams, understanding ethical responsibilities, acquiring new knowledge, etc.). One other skill that systems engineers should develop is the ability to think probabilistically. What elements of a system/model are random? What quantities or assumptions are uncertain? What happens when components take on values in the tails of the distribution? Thinking in terms of the probabilistic nature of the system is critical to evaluating the system’s risks.

Q4. What was your university’s motivation behind joining the academic equivalency program?

» We wanted to make our degree more valuable to students in the workplace and to market this aspect of our program to incoming students. Our curriculum was already strongly aligned with the ASEP material, so it was just a matter of documenting how it was covered.

Q5. What do you see as the benefits of the academic equivalency program for a university and a student?

» Students have a strong interest in the certification. When we announced our academic equivalency on LinkedIn, we got a huge response from alumni asking about it. Though it only applies to current and incoming students, there is clearly interest.

Q6. What methods do you use to teach SE courses effectively?

» Almost all courses in our undergraduate curriculum have team projects. From early in the program, students gain substantial experience working in diverse teams, presenting results in both written and oral formats. The project-based approach helps students gain consistent experience working on complex problems involving diverse stakeholders with multiple objectives and constraints.

Q7. How do your SE courses help students to deepen their understanding of systems engineering?

» We incorporate the systems engineering V in every part of the undergraduate curriculum. We map each course to where it sits on the V and communicate this to the students. Through examples that span multiple courses, students see how the techniques and skills fit within the overall design process. They see that these are not just independent courses, but that they fit together in an integrated way. When they get to the capstone experience, they are ready to apply the whole V to an industry-sponsored problem.

Q8. How do your SE courses differ from those at other universities?

» One unique aspect of our undergraduate program is that we have introductory computing courses that teach elements of SysML, model-based systems engineering, and object-oriented design, in addition to programming techniques. Students learn to take a systems perspective and model the structure and behavior of a system in SysML, and to implement the system model in a programming language. MBSE techniques continue to be emphasized throughout the curriculum, from introductory computing courses to the final capstone design experience. Our program also has a strong focus on stochastic modeling with multiple courses covering topics in probability, statistics, simulation, risk, stochastic modeling, and digital twins.

Q9. What is your advice for universities or institutes considering applying for academic equivalency?
» It was a valuable experience to go through our program and see where the courses mapped to the INCOSE Handbook, where there were gaps, what elements were covered in more detail, and what areas we emphasized outside the handbook. Filling out the mapping was not too difficult, the main work was to identify where topics were assessed in the courses.

Q10. How can we reach out to you?

» You can reach me at : https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-shortle-33a11532/ 

Here is the link to Systems Engineering / Operations Research Dept. George Mason University LinkedIn page:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/systems-engineering-operations-research-dept-george-mason-university-304581213/ 

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