Developing Changemaking Engineers – Year Three
This paper describes progress to date resulting from a National Science Foundation (NSF) IUSE/PFE Revolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (RED) grant. Traditionally, engineering students are trained technically, with less focus on critical examinations of assumptions within engineering practice, and less emphasis on the larger contexts in which engineering is embedded. With funding from this RED grant, our School of Engineering is working to produce and disseminate a model for redefining the “engineering canon” with the goal of developing “Changemaking Engineers”. This revised canon teaches technical skills within a contextual framework that includes humanitarian, sustainable, and social justice approaches. This requires an enhanced curriculum that also includes a focus on student teamwork, a greater consideration of social and economic factors, improved communication with diverse constituents, and reflection on an ethical understanding of decisions and solutions. This broader perspective of engineering practice will produce graduates who can address a wider range of societal problems bringing new perspectives to traditional areas.
In this paper, we will review our efforts towards achieving this vision, including:
• Establishing a foundation for a revised engineering canon to include greater integration of professional practices and societal responsibilities that includes the development of new courses and modules. We will discuss the process of helping faculty develop new course materials through the offering of RED-related workshops and partnerships in module development. We will summarize the resulting course materials including a new interdisciplinary course focusing on drones and peace, the redesign on an engineering course focusing on user centered design, and short modules for courses throughout the school.
• Developing professional skills including greater connections between technical knowledge and professional practice through an industry-developed “Industry Scholars Program” for both faculty and students. We will summarize the evaluation of the first offering of this program including student and industry surveys.
• Creating a foundation for developing a faculty that embraces the redefined engineering canon and the professional spine that includes workshop and strategic planning sessions. We review our efforts of aligning with USD’s Strategic Plan: “Envisioning 2020” to generate greater faculty collaboration, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of drawing on a campus master plan in striving for faculty buy-in.
• Developing a new “General Engineering” major staffed with cluster hires around the RED proposal themes. We discuss how new structural formations lead to innovative collaboration opportunities.
• Establishing partnerships to develop a culture of change within the school, across campus, and outside of the university that include hosting a Social Justice, Engineering, and Peace (ESJP) conference and developing relationships with other scholars seeking to change engineering-learning in similar contexts.
Taken together, our faculty and course development activities provide an emerging model for change for similar institution types and a platform for change that moves from narrowly-constructed, techno-centric epistemological approaches to a holistic perspective that empowers graduates to impact society by innovating within the contexts of social justice, peace, humanitarian advancement, and sustainable practices.
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