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A Flexible Undergraduate Civil Engineering Curriculum

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Programmatic Curriculum Developments

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.45.1 - 8.45.14



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Paper Authors

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Robert Ettema

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James Stoner

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Forrest Holly

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Wilfrid Nixon

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2615

A Flexible Undergraduate Civil Engineering Curriculum

Wilfrid A. Nixon, Robert Ettema, Forrest M. Holly Jr., and James W. Stoner Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 52242


The ABET EC 2000 criteria allow programs to develop flexible approaches to undergraduate education. Such approaches must reflect program objectives and meet all ABET criteria, but content and quantity of the various curricular components (Math and Science, Humanities and Social Science, Engineering Science, and Engineering Design) are defined much less rigidly than previously. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the faculty of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa has developed a new undergraduate curriculum that permits students exceptional flexibility, consistent with their career goals as well as their possible additional aspirations for learning while at university.

The process began in 1997, when the College of Engineering Faculty redesigned the core curriculum. Math and science classes were modified, the engineering core courses were streamlined, and the College Faculty introduced the notion of “Elective Focus Areas,” or EFAs. The concept of EFAs is that students should have between 15 and 21 semester hours (out of 128 s.h. for graduation) to focus on an area of specialization that could be technical or non-technical, as the student wished, provided that this focus was consistent with their career goals. The faculty felt (and this was supported by the College and the various Departmental advisory boards) that facilitating such flexibility was entirely in keeping with the theme “Engineers and something more” which defines undergraduate engineering students at the University of Iowa.

However, this flexibility means that students must meet ABET curricular requirements in only 110 semester hours (the CEE faculty decided to allow students 18 s.h. in their EFAs). The College’s new set of core courses had freed up about 5 s.h., but some additional hard choices were necessary. This paper presents the result of this process, and provides preliminary assessment of how the new curriculum is functioning.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Ettema, R., & Stoner, J., & Holly, F., & Nixon, W. (2003, June), A Flexible Undergraduate Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11650

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