Symposium on Engineering and Liberal Education

Poster Session, Friday, June 5, 2009




Akera, Atsushi, Science & Technology Studies,  John Gowdy, Economics, and Prabhat Hajela, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
“A Curriculum for the ‘Vasudha’ Living Learning Community - H&SS First Year Studies Program”  

Abstract:  The group from Rensselaer will be presenting a poster describing “Vasudha,” a new undergraduate living and learning community created for students interested in issues of the Earth, its energy resources, and the natural environment. Based on the general model of a “themed” living and learning community, we have worked to develop synergistic curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs that enhance student learning, academic engagement, and early career development. The program currently involves a one-year residential component (which may be extended to two years under a proposed new residential college model), but is viewed as introducing students to our research faculty and to a peer network and a set of academic options that continues through their entire undergraduate experience. The program is nominally designed for all majors; it specifically encourages interdisciplinary dialogue and interests in the overall area of energy, environment, and sustainability.

    This initiative was developed as part of our institution’s Undergraduate Plan, and has the full support (and active involvement) of the Office of the Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. The curricular component of the program consists of a core humanities and social sciences seminar, “IHSS-1970 Nature/Society,” required of all first year students; a dedicated section of an innovative (modules-based) course on the introduction to biology; and a very early introduction to a relevant undergraduate research experience. We have also worked institute-wide to cultivate a set of courses at the 2000 and 4000-level on relevant topics, and to offer supplemental curricular guidance to students in every major; we may be mapping this work onto an institute-wide major or certification program in the area of “sustainability.” Co-curricular activities have included field trips to the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, the Erie Canal, a walking tour of Troy, and guest lectures on a number of energy and environmental topics. Extra-curricular activities, which are organized more by the students themselves, have included recycling and reuse workshops, discussions about sustainable farming, and other such topics. During the poster session, we will also feature how we have integrated the themes of ecological economics, sociobiology, and the history of land use into the “Nature/Society” seminar in order to provide our students with some basic conceptual frameworks for analyzing and interpreting their remaining academic coursework and other experiences.



 Course Syllabus

Barry, Brock E., P.E., Ph.D., United States Military Academy (Research performed within the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University)
“Reintroducing Ethics into the Engineering Curriculum: An Assessment of Curriculum Methods"  

Abstract: The ethics literature within engineering is long on opinions, but short on evidence as to the most effective curriculum models for incorporating an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility. This research program evaluated the methods of incorporating ethics in the engineering curriculum to determine if a relationship exists between the curriculum model used and outcomes on a nationally administered, engineering-specific standardized examination. The study’s population included engineering students enrolled at one of nine southeastern public universities between October 1996 and April 2005. The qualitative research questions were investigated through a process of semistructured interviews conducted with program representatives and evaluation of 49 ABET Self-Study accreditation documents. The curriculum model used by each of the participating programs were identified and defined for the period of the study and a quantitative process was implemented to compare those models relative to performance on the ethics section of the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Examination. This study represents the first published attempt to utilize student-level FE Examination data for the purpose of rigorous educational research.

    The conclusions and implications suggest a lack of structured statistical relationship between the amount of required professional and ethical content in the curriculum and performance on the ethics section of the FE Examination. A possible implication of these findings is that the quality of instruction has a greater influence on professional and ethical learning than does the quantity of courses or credits.

    The findings of this study will have significant bearing on the considerations made by engineering programs, accrediting organizations such as ABET, professional and technical societies, and licensing organizations such as the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Survey.



Catravas, Palma, Helen Hanson and James Hedrick, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Victor Klimash, Diane McMullen,  and Tim Olsen, Music, Union College
“Interdisciplinary lightning:  collaborations between Music and Electrical Engineering at Union College”

Abstract: The Music and Electrical Engineering Departments at Union have developed a variety of joint exercises bringing together pairs of classes.  For example, electrical engineering students studying acoustics and music students in the Camarata Singers participated in a project involving signal processing of recordings of rehearsals and concerts.  In another example, engineering students took part in clavichord construction and harpsichord measurements and theoretical modeling in preparation for a joint event with music students studying Baroque music history.

    New teaching and research collaborations will be made possible by the planned Laboratory for Electrical Engineering and Music Research (Phasor Lab) in the Peter Irving Wold Science and Engineering Center, currently under construction.  The Phasor Lab will include a professional recording studio (designed by architectural acoustics consultants Walters Storyk Design Group) and instrumentation for scientific research in speech acoustics, musical acoustics, audio engineering and signal processing.



Chatziioanou, Alypios and David Gillette, California Polytechnic State University
“Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies: Engineering a Narrative for Sustainable Change.”

Abstract: Our poster charts the development of the field of engineering with the intention of demonstrating the connection the field has had with our cultural and political "narrative" of continual expansion and growth. The poster is designed to accompany the arguments we make in our paper: "Engineering a Narrative for Sustainable Change."

Sustainability is quickly growing to become the defining challenge of the 21st century. But switching our technological culture away from the ideologies of continual expansion and the use of seemingly limitless resources is a difficult task. The old narratives of technological development being based on consumption have been profitable and “successful” for many years and so they have become entrenched in nearly every aspect of modern life. But new and more threatening as well as interconnected environmental challenges have made it apparent that we need to change the way we do things, and we need to change quickly.

    We are now faced with a great opportunity to unite behind the common goal of adjusting errors of the past and finding a new way to think about how we use the resources of our planet. Education plays a key role in addressing these new challenges, both in inspiring personal responsibility around the sustainable use of resources, as well as the development of a workforce that can find and implement solutions to the complex technical problems that will confront us in the future. Liberal Arts orientations have a long tradition of “educating” students in primarily theoretical concepts while engineering initially “trained” students in different technologies and skills.

    Both orientations have evolved in the 20th century but have not yet increased their true appreciation and understanding of the “other” side.  We may have reached a point today where we cannot move to the next level without this mutual appreciation. This poster attempts to chart these developments with the conclusion that the next step in the evolutionary progress of Engineering will be the development of new interdisciplinary programs (such as the Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies program at California Polytechnic State University) that attempt to unite these approaches in common purpose.



Foutz, Tim, Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Maria Navarro, Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication;  and Sid Thompson, Coordinator of Undergraduate Engineering Programs, The University of Georgia
“Engaging cross-disciplinary faculty to incorporate humanities and social sciences into engineering classrooms”

Abstract: The engineering faculty of the University of Georgia developed a strategy to reshape the University’s engineering academic programs such that the engineering curricula are designed to produce an engineering graduate whose profile is woven with the strands of technical excellence in science, mathematics, analysis and synthesis; innovative curiosity for creative adaptation from learning, unlearning and relearning; and humanistic consciousness grounded in humanities, arts and social sciences [1]. This project is focused toward creating the environment and providing the outcomes to help meet this academic strategy.

    The poster describes the mode of operation of the project, lists the members of the faculty team, outlines the goals of current work, and presents some preliminary results. 

    As an example of a specific strategy employed, there was a general agreement among the faculty team that a topic that would help demonstrate how to develop the dimensions of a socially conscious/ humanistic “engineering project” would be WATER.  Two modules were developed on this theme.

1. Penultimate Report outlining the profile of the UGA Engineer, The Faculty of Engineering, Feb. 2007.



Ghaly, Ashraf, Engineering, Union College
"Engineered Humanity: Ancient Egyptian Monuments Manifest the Integration of Engineering and the Liberal Arts"

Abstract: Ancient Egyptians left behind an array of temples and monuments of colossal proportions. The engineering and architectural work involved in the design and construction of many of these monuments are nothing short of miraculous considering the tools and techniques available at the time. In addition to the engineering scope, each of these ancient monuments was built to commemorate certain events of historical importance. These events varied from celebrations of victory or birth to celebrations of the lives of the dead and preparing their bodies for the phase of after life. Statues of all sizes, carefully engraved drawings, colorful paintings, and writings in hieroglyphics meticulously tell stories of love, hate, birth, death, revenge, or chronically document the affairs of the state. Ancient Egyptians paid extreme attention to blending the engineering design of a given monument with the message and the story it tells. These magnificent monuments are still standing today, and in good shape, as manifestation to early examples of integration. This presentation will offer insight into the mechanics of integration as illustrated in the following monuments: Saqqra Pyramid, Memphis, Giza Pyramids, and Sphinx; and in the following temples: Karnak, Luxor, Edfu, Abydos, Dendera, Kom Ombo, Abu Simbel, and Hatshepsut. These monuments and temples stood the test of time and survived thousands of years as testimony to the ingenuity of humanity when engineering and the liberal arts come together to serve a common goal.



Goldberg, David, Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“The Missing Basics and the Academic NIMBY Problem: Conceptual and Organizational Obstacles to an Engineering Education Aligned with a Creative Era”

Abstract: This poster considers how engineering education as we know it today was formed in the crucible of the post-WW2 era and solidified in the words of the 1955 Grinter report. At that time, math and science were injected into the curriculum and design and shop practice were extracted, and an argument can be made that a prime mover of the swap was envy, envy of the status that physics achieved in the myths that radar, the bomb, and other "accomplishments of physics" won the war. The Grinter curriculum was reasonably well aligned with the large, hierarchical, and increasingly scientific private and governmental organizations of the time, but over the years technological advances in transportation and communications have resulted in a "flat world," in which engineering plans can and do move around the world at the speed of light. In the intervening times, quality, entrepreneurial, and information technology revolutions have transformed business at a time when they barely changed academic institutions at all.

    Today, the cold war engineering curriculum is increasingly out of place, and calls for change are many. Massive funding of curriculum reform has resulted in changes at the margins, but organizational and conceptual hurdles continue to resist a fuller transformation. In particular, engineering's concept of itself has remained wedded to the post-war view that engineering is applied science, and academic engineering faculty defend this faith with code words such as "the basics" and "rigor," keeping "soft" topics from harming young engineering minds. At root, this difficulty is a field that has little or no philosophical underpinnings, no clear understanding of itself, its products, or its values, a field that has steadfastly refused to reflect on its basis, meaning, and purpose. This is especially harmful in a world that demands increased category creation as opposed to the category enhancement of the cold war period, in a world that holds engineering more accountable for the intended and unintended consequences of its designs.

    Another difficulty is that too much effort has been expended in eliciting and discussing reform plans, and little consideration has been paid to the organizational hurdles of getting these plans implemented. The poster considers the primary problem to be political; reform efforts are generally applauded, but when push comes to shove, individual faculty argue on NIMBY terms ("not in my backyard") that "reform is fine, just don't change my course," Subsequent logrolling results in little or no change, and reform efforts succeed or fail, depending upon a dean with a strong hand, or a funding agency with a strong budget, but even then, reform efforts have been known to revert to cold war form once the strong man or funding is withdrawn.

    The poster concludes with a brief description of a new organizational form, the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry). iFoundry is conceived as voluntary, curriculum interdepartmental incubator in which the Dean's signature is used to permit departmentally approved pilot changes in select student curricula. These changes are properly assessed, and corporate advisors are directly involved to provide their input and support. The poster also discusses the importance of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out, in promoting change in an organization resistant to change. In particular, the Olin-Illinois Partnership (OIP) and the Summit on the Engineer of the Future 2.0 are mentioned as activities designed to help move transformation efforts both in- and outside the organization.



Guswa, Andrew J., Picker Engineering Program and Amy L. Rhodes, Department of Geosciences, Smith College
"Out in the Field: A Natural Integration of History, Landscape, Engineering, and the Environment"

Abstract: Place-based inquiry provides a natural opportunity to integrate traditional scientific and engineering research with the liberal arts. In contrast to the controlled environment of the lab, the uniqueness of a site calls for an understanding of history, politics, culture and landscape. When structured appropriately, place-based inquiry fits easily into a learner-centered paradigm that puts emphasis on student learning, rather than instructor teaching. Under such a paradigm, students construct knowledge through integrating information with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and they use and communicate this knowledge to address real issues [Huba and Freed, 2000]. Connecting abstract concepts from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to a common place and a shared set of field experiences deepens one’s understanding and appreciation of those concepts. Our efforts in Monteverde, Costa Rica and Whately, MA provide examples of this natural integration, and outcomes are demonstrated via student reflections on their experiences.

[Huba, M. E. and J. E. Freed, 2000. Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses, Allyn and Bacon, Boston.]



Jewell, Thomas, Professor of Engineering, Donald T. Rodbell, Professor of Geology & Chair of ESPE, Cherrice A. Traver, Dean of Engineering, J. Douglass Klein, Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, Andrew J.F. Morris, Associate Professor of History, Kathleen LoGiudice, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Laura A. MacManus-Spencer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Union College
"Integrating Environmental Engineering, Science, and Policy at Union College"

Abstract: The Environmental Science, Policy, and Engineering (ESPE) planning group was convened by the Vice President for Academic Affairs during fall term 2008. The group was charged with developing a vision and mission for ESPE at Union, proposing interdisciplinary programs that should be available, proposing an administrative and leadership structure for ESPE, and compiling a list of items (with preliminary justification) that are needed to support this initiative.

    The group began meeting during winter term 2009. The first order of business was to review the current status of ESPE. Two years ago the environmental studies program was revised to include distinct paths leading to either a BS in Environmental Science or a BA in Environmental Policy. One of the tracks developed for the environmental science program was Engineering and Technology. Several new courses, with minimum prerequisites and open to a large segment of the Union student body, were developed for this track. The two new degree programs were recently approved by the NYS Board of Regents. To compliment the Engineering and Technology track, a minor in environmental engineering was developed for students outside the environmental science program. The minor requires minimal prerequisites, so it is appealing and available to a broad range of engineering, science, and liberal arts majors. There are currently several students pursuing the minor.

    To date the ESPE group has developed mission statements for the environmental science and policy programs, as well as for a proposed major in environmental engineering. Possible changes have been vetted for the existing programs and will go forward in the future. A preliminary curriculum has been developed for the environmental engineering major. This curriculum will be circulated to stakeholders for iterative feedback. The ESPE group proposed three endowed positions, one each in environmental science, policy, and engineering. These positions have gained the approval of the upper administration and Board of Trustees. They will be included in the ongoing capital campaign.

    The ESPE group plans to submit a proposal for support to the Mellon Foundation to enhance interdisciplinary senior projects and student research, as well as to contribute to the endowment of an environmental engineering professorship. Finally, the ESPE group has developed several possible administrative structures for the various environmental science, policy, and engineering constituencies of the College. These will be circulated to the stakeholders and will hopefully lead to an efficient and effective overarching administrative structure.



Klein, J. Douglass, Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, Union College
“2008 Mellon Symposium on Engineering and Liberal Education”

[Poster presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Council of College and Arts and Sciences, November 12-15, 2008; Session title: “Beyond the Ivory Tower: Integrating Traditional Liberal Arts Education and Professional Preparation”]

Most challenging of all will be the development of a full-blown conception of engineering as a liberal art, not simply as one more offering on a sort of curricular cafeteria line but rather as possessing qualities that are fundamentally compatible with the goals of liberal education.

        -- Stephen C. Ainlay, President, Union College 

Abstract: In February, 2007 Union College adopted a new Strategic Plan which states in part: “We seek to further integrate engineering with the liberal arts. …  by maintaining strong engineering programs, by integrating engineering more solidly into the liberal arts curriculum, and by pioneering the expansion of the liberal arts concept itself to embrace the study of engineering and technology.” (

    To this end, Union has engaged with other institutions in a conversation about how to integrate engineering and liberal arts.  Representatives from a dozen schools with undergraduate liberal arts and engineering programs gathered for the Symposium on Engineering and Liberal Education at Union College in May, 2008, and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

    This poster, presented originally at the 2008 Annual Meeting of CCAS, highlights the activities of the Symposium, and offers a comparison between the learning outcomes articulated by Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP), and the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). 


ABET: Documents-UPDATE/Criteria and PP/E001 08-09 EAC Criteria 12-04-07.pdf



Krupczak, Jr., John, Professor of Engineering, Hope College, Holland, Michigan, CASEE Senior Fellow, National Academy of Engineering
"Balancing the Equation: Liberal Arts Engineers Reach Out Across Campus"

Abstract: Engineers can play a unique and central role in the promotion of science and technology education for non-science and non-engineering students. All Americans need to understand more about the technological products of created by engineers and not just how to use computers and information technology.  One way to help achieve this goal is through introductory level technological literacy service courses taught by engineering departments at the college level. Unlike fields such as economics, psychology and English, engineering thus far lacks a significant presence in the general education of undergraduate non-engineers.  However the establishment of engineering as a liberal art implies that engineering has a body of knowledge that is both accessible to, and appropriate for, the education of all students. On several campuses engineering faculty have pioneered new approaches to teaching science and technology to students majoring  in non-technical fields. The ABET Engineering Criteria 2000 facilitates widespread adoption of these innovative new developments by giving engineering departments greater scope in the definition of their program constituencies and objectives.  To support this trend a workshop and symposium on the technological literacy of undergraduates was convened at the National Academy of Engineering in  2007.  This National Science Foundation sponsored workshop sought to identify and define several models of engineering courses for non-engineers and to identify educational research issues in this area.  The workshop identified some engineering departments that  have been successful in reaching out across campus to engage the entire student body with courses that develop a broad understanding of technology and include an accurate depiction of the innovative nature of the engineering discipline. An overview of these workshop results will be presented.  This review will emphasize lessons learned from successful engineering courses for non-engineers and factors affecting implementation in different types of institutions. These efforts by engineers are helping to reach a long-neglected population of students and to establish more reciprocal relationships between engineering programs and their larger campus-wide communities.



Ressler,  COL Stephen, COL Fred Meyer and Dr. Bruce Keith, United States Military Academy, West Point
“A Two-Way Street: Using the Core Curriculum as a Vehicle for Integrating the Liberal Arts and Engineering Education"

Abstract: The curriculum of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is founded on a set of intellectual development goals that address graduates’ ability to:

  • understand and apply math, science, engineering, and information technology;
  • draw upon an appreciation of history and culture;
  • understand patterns of human behavior;
  • communicate effectively;
  • think and act creatively; and
  • pursue progressive and continued intellectual development

    To fulfill these goals, the Academy offers a 30-course core curriculum that requires every student to take prescribed courses in English composition (2), psychology, world history (2), military history (2), literature, foreign language (2), philosophy, political science, economics, international relations, leadership, law, math modeling, calculus (2), probability and statistics, chemistry (2), information technology (2), physics (2), geography, and engineering (3).  Beyond the core curriculum, students choose a 10-14 course major in any of a wide range of disciplines, to include humanities, social sciences, math, science, and engineering.

    The core curriculum facilitates a high level of integration between the liberal arts and engineering.  Because all students receive a broad, substantive introduction to humanities, social sciences, math, science, and engineering through the core curriculum, and because all faculty know precisely what knowledge and skills all students will glean from the core, upper division courses in the majors can integrate across disciplines more readily and at a higher level.  My poster illustrates a few examples of these integrative experiences.



Rizzo, D.M., M. Dewoolkar, S. A. Lathem, M. Neumann and N.J. Hayden, University of Vermont
“Curriculum Reform: Systems Modeling and Sustainability within Civil and Environmental Engineering Programs at the UVM”

Abstract: The goal of our NSF-sponsored Department Level Reform (DLR) grant is to incorporate a systems approach to engineering problem solving within the civil and environmental engineering programs. A systems approach challenges students to consider the environmental, social, and economic aspects within engineering solutions.  Likewise, sustainability requires a holistic approach to problem solving that includes economic, social and environmental factors.

    The catamount paw represents the systems-approach framework and the specific activities and areas within that framework used to implement our reform efforts (e.g. IT, systems analysis, inquiry-based learning, soft skills, and service learning).

    Our reform has taken a multi-pronged approach in two main areas that include implementing: a) a sequence of three systems courses related to environmental and transportation systems that introduce systems thinking, sustainability, and systems analysis and modeling; and b) service-learning (SL) projects as a means of practicing the systems approach. Our SL projects are good examples of inquiry-based learning that allow students to emphasize research and learning in areas of most interest to them. The SL projects address real-world open-ended problems. Activities that enhance IT and soft skills for students are incorporated throughout the curricula. Likewise, sustainability has been a central piece of the reform. We present examples of sustainability in the SL and modeling projects within the systems courses (e.g., students have used STELLA™ systems modeling software to address the impact of different carbon sequestration strategies on global climate change). Sustainability in SL projects include mentoring home schooled children in biomimicry projects, developing ECHO exhibits and the design of green roofs, bioretention ponds and porous pavement solutions.

    Assessment includes formative and summative methods involving student surveys and focus groups, faculty interviews and observations, and evaluation of student work.



Rosen, Michael J., PhD, Coordinator of Design Education, College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, University of Vermont
"Stories: the links between living, liberal arts and engineering design"







Rossmann, Jenn Stroud, Mechanical Engineering, and Karina Skvirsky, Art, Lafayette College
"The Art and Science of Flow Visualization" 

Abstract: The flow of fluids explains how airplanes fly, why a curveball curves, why atherosclerotic plaque clogs arteries, why Jupiter’s red spot is growing, and how hurricanes form. Yet it is difficult to see fluids flowing: you can’t see the wind, or ocean currents, without the techniques of flow visualization. At Lafayette College, a sophomore-level seminar in The Art and Science of Flow Visualization exposes students to these techniques and the science of fluid mechanics, and to the photographic methods needed to create effective images that are successful both scientifically and artistically. Unlike other courses in flow visualization, this course assumes no a priori familiarity with fluid flow or with photography. The fundamentals of both are taught and practiced in a studio setting. Students are engaged in an interdisciplinary discourse about fluids and physics, photography, scientific ethics, and historical societal responses to science and art. We discuss the development, implementation, and assessment of this team-taught course at Lafayette.



Yochum, Hank and Scott Pierce, Department of Physics and Engineering, Sweet Briar College
"Integrating Meaningful Engineering Design and the Liberal Arts – Providing Solutions for Disabled Workers in Central Virginia"   

Integrating Meaningful Engineering Design and the Liberal Arts: Providing Solutions for Disabled Workers in Central Virginia

Hank Yochum and Scott Pierce, Department of Physics and Engineering, Sweet Briar College

Abstract: We developed and taught two engineering courses which provide opportunities for students to do engineering design and to experience engineering as more than the straightforward application of technology to a problem.  We offer two versions of the Technology and Society course, one focused on a global perspective and another with a regional focus.  In both the regional and global courses, our goal is for students to gain an appreciation of the critical role that social realities play in engineering and technology.  Our presentation focuses on the regional course which was taught in the spring of 2009. 

    This course provides practical examples of the role that social, historical and political considerations play in the long-term effects of engineering projects.  As part of meeting this objective, this course had a significant design project where students worked with disabled employees at Lynchburg Sheltered Industries.  Students designed and prototyped assistive tools that would increase the employment opportunities for these disabled workers.  In this presentation, we will describe the details of the course, explain the design project, and discuss student outcomes.