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An Alternate Paradigm For Undergraduate Engineering: The Bachelor Of Arts

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Programs II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.149.1 - 10.149.18

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Paper Authors

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Kimberly Whelan

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Sharon Jones

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

An Alternate Paradigm for Undergraduate Engineering: The Bachelor of Arts

Kimberly A. Whelan, Sharon A. Jones

Lafayette College


The National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) are on record stating the problems associated with the prevailing paradigm for undergraduate engineering education in the USA.1, 2 Several of the problems stated refer to the need for a more liberally trained engineer who has mastery of the essential engineering principles, but realizes the social impact of technology and is well equipped with communication skills. Typical engineering graduates have strong technical skills, however modern professional practice requires more breadth. Additional skills in communication, team building, leadership, and project management principles are needed to be successful in the engineering workplace. The challenge is that mastery of technical skills and a broad liberal training are difficult to achieve within the standard 4-year undergraduate engineering degree program.

An alternate engineering paradigm exists that is known as the Bachelor of Arts in Engineering (BA Engineering) degree. Such a degree offers a paradigm shift from the traditional Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BS Engineering) degree to a less technical, more liberal program, arguably creating a better-rounded (though less technically skilled) graduate. In replace of some of the typical upper-level design courses required for BS Engineering students, BA Engineering students take courses in business and economics, project management, public policy, foreign culture, etc. This approach acknowledges that to be a design engineer, one will need to obtain additional skills in graduate programs and professional practice. However, this approach recognizes that the BA Engineering degree may appeal to those entering non-design technical fields such as operations management, construction management, policy analysis, and so on. In addition, such a technically grounded liberal arts degree may be appealing as a pre-professional degree for a variety of careers including medicine, law, architecture, and so on.

The BA Engineering degree is currently offered at a limited number of colleges, including Lafayette College in Pennsylvania where it’s been offered since 1970. Lafayette College’s engineering division has four ABET accredited BS programs as well as the BA Engineering Program. The BA Engineering Program is well established with two tracks in engineering management, and engineering public policy. The BA Engineering Program has two full-time faculty members to teach the program specific core courses. The Program draws on the expertise of faculty in the engineering division as well as the College as a whole to teach the “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2005, American Society for Engineering Education”

Whelan, K., & Jones, S. (2005, June), An Alternate Paradigm For Undergraduate Engineering: The Bachelor Of Arts Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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