Union to host annual symposium on liberal arts and engineering

Publication Date

Henry Petroski, the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering at Duke University, will deliver the keynote address at the College's annual symposium on integrating a liberal education with engineering.

The two-day symposium kicks off Friday, June 2, with sessions in Wold 010 and Olin 106. President Stephen C. Ainlay will give welcoming remarks at 6 p.m. in the Nott Memorial.

Petroski’s talk, “Bridges between Engineering and the Liberal Arts,” follows.

Petroski has been at Duke since 1980. Before that, he taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Texas at Austin. He was also a group leader at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was responsible for research and development efforts in fracture mechanics.

His current research focuses on the interrelationship between success and failure in design. He also has a strong interest in the nature of invention and in the history of technology.

He is the author of numerous books, including “To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design,” “The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance,” and “The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure.”

He writes the engineering column for American Scientist and a column on the profession for ASEE Prism. He also lectures widely and is interviewed frequently on radio and television.

Among the schools and companies represented at the symposium are IBM, California Polytechnic State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Maryland at College Park, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Bucknell University, Lafayette College and the University of Calgary.

As the first liberal arts college to offer engineering in 1845, Union holds a distinctive place in higher education.

This marks the 10th year the College has hosted a conference on integrating engineering and the liberal arts. The event has attracted national attention, including a feature in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

This year’s symposium is funded in part by the Laurence W. Levine ’52 and Barry Traub ’53 Endowed Lecture Fund.