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Assessing Achievement of Sustainability Skills in the Environmental and Civil Engineering Curriculum

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Innovative Instructional Strategies for Integrating Sustainability

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Diane L. Bondehagen Florida Gulf Coast University

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Dr. Diane Bondehagen is an assistant professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University's U.A. Whitaker School of Engineering. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1983, her M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Florida International University in 1999, and her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida in 2005. Dr. Bondehagen joined FGCU after a research and teaching position at the University of Florida. Dr. Bondehagen is a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the American Water Resources Association (AWRA) and American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Her current research interests are in engineering education and contaminant transport/remediation.

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Simeon J. Komisar Florida Gulf Coast University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Komisar is the Program Director of Environmental Engineering at FGCU

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Robert O'Neill Florida Gulf Coast University

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Dr. ROBERT (BOB) J. O’NEILL is Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering, U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering, Florida Gulf Coast University. He received a B.S. from the United States Military Academy in 1975, an M.S. in Structural Engineering and an M.S. in Geotechnical Engineering from Stanford University in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from Kansas State University in 1993. Prior to his coming to FGCU he was a Professor of Engineering at Roger Williams University and an Associate Professor and Director of the Civil Engineering Analysis Group at the United States Military Academy. Dr. O’ Neill is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He has been active at the national level with ASCE’s Technical Council on Computing and Information Technology (TCCIT), Committee on Faculty Development (CFD) and Excellence in Civil Engineering Education (ExCEEd) initiative. Dr. O’Neill is a licensed Professional Engineer in California, Florida, Nevada and Virginia. He is a civil engineering program evaluator for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). He is an American Society of Civil Engineering Fellow (ASCE), a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), and Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society.

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Sustainability as a central issue and as a skill set has become an increasingly important part of engineering education for Civil and Environmental Engineers. ABET criteria for both Environmental and Civil Engineering currently contain language stressing sustainability but the development of curriculum components for these degree programs does not yet have an established norm, with some efforts directed at spreading sustainability across the curriculum in a modular fashion within upper level topics and other efforts directed at one, two or three course sequences specifically focused on sustainability. A body of sustainability pedagogy does exist and has been strongly promoted by both AEESP and the NSF and is now a topic of discussion by the ASCE. XXXX was established in the late 1990’s as a “green university’ as part of the State University System in Florida. The school has environmental sustainability as part of its formal mission in a region acutely sensitive to climate change and dependent on the construction and tourism industries and continuous growth for economic stability in a shrinking and fragile ecosystem. As part of the original design of the Environmental Engineering curriculum, a Sustainability in Engineering course was established and first taught in the 2008-2009 academic year. The senior-level course is required for Environmental Engineers and serves as an environmental elective for many Civil Engineers. Environmental and Civil engineers at FGCU share the same course template for the first two years. By the first semester junior year, all students will have had a first course in Environmental Engineering and Engineering Mechanics and are enrolled together in Fluid Mechanics. Environmental engineers then take courses in water, wastewater, solid and hazardous waste and air pollution control, while Civil engineers take courses in water, geotechnical, structural and transportation topics. Performance in the senior level Sustainability course varies widely even though the topics reflect all varieties of infrastructure including energy generation and efficiency, construction, transportation and water and waste infrastructure as well as planning, life cycle analyses and economic topics. Good students in both disciplines achieve student learning outcomes at high taxonomic levels. Weaker students in Environmental Engineering also have high outcome achievement. A large cohort of Civil Engineers however fall short in achieving learning outcomes at the highest levels. This study highlights attempts to assess these differences and improve overall achievement of sustainability skills for Civil Engineering students. We use survey instruments in these classes as well as in at least one additional Civil Engineering class (sustainability focus included) to assess student attitudes and depth of knowledge prior to and after completion of the Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering course in sophomore year and prior to and after the Sustainability course in senior year. We will collect data this year and continue collecting data over several years continuing a longitudinal study that will focus on our students’ developing levels of expertise in formulating sustainable solutions to real life engineering problems.

Bondehagen, D. L., & Komisar, S. J., & O'Neill, R. (2016, June), Assessing Achievement of Sustainability Skills in the Environmental and Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26290

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