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Assessing Student and Employer Satisfaction in a Liberal Arts/Engineering Bachelor of Arts Degree

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Integrating Art, Humanities, and Engineering

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.216.1 - 23.216.10



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Paper Authors


Michael Haungs California Polytechnic State University

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Michael Haungs is an Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at California Polytechnic State University. He received his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.S. degree in Computer Science from Clemson University, and his Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of California, Davis. Over the last 8 years, Dr. Haungs has been actively involved in curriculum development and undergraduate education.

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David Gillette California Polytechnic State University


Debra L. Valencia-Laver California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Debra Valencia-Laver is a Professor, Department of Psychology and Child Development, and Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She has been involved with the development of Cal Poly's Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies initial proposal as a pilot bachelor's degree program and its subsequent program review and conversion to a permanent degree program.

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Elizabeth Ann Lowham California Polytechnic State University

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Elizabeth Lowham is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she also serves as director of the Master of Public Policy program. Elizabeth received her B.A. in Geology from Carleton College in 2001. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 2003 and 2007 respectively. Elizabeth's research interests center around collaboration and leadership in environmental policy and research methodology. Elizabeth is a member of the Faculty Advisory Board of the Liberal Arts/Engineering Studies program at Cal Poly.

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Assessing Student and Employer Satisfaction in a Liberal Arts/Engineering Bachelor of Arts Degree at is offering a new multidisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degreeprogram in Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES). This program is a collaborationbetween the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering and represents a new modelfor fostering multidisciplinary work on campus. The program was run on a trial basis from 2006-2012. In Spring, 2012, the program was approved to become a permanent part of the universitycurriculum.The LAES program prepares students for a wide range of careers in professional fields thatcombine skills and interests in engineering, the arts, technology, and culture. As part of a quartersystem, the LAES program requires 52 units of general education, 40 units of Science andMathematics, 34 units of Engineering, 24 units of Liberal Arts, and 8 units of study abroadcoursework. LAES students also take16 units of service-based learning combined with theirsenior project work. Our graduates have successful careers as game designers, media developers,sound engineers, and technical writers, to name just a few.Before starting the trial-run period, the LAES program had to prove there was a need for thistype of program. We referenced a number of national studies that showed how technicalemployers expect increasingly more interdisciplinary academic backgrounds from newemployees, especially some combination of the skills provided by liberal arts study withengineering skills. For example, “Educating the Engineer of 2020” claims there is a nation-wideneed for a bachelor of arts in engineering.During the first five years of our program’s trial run (2006-2012), we tracked the internship andpost-graduation employment of our students. In 2011 we conducted a series of surveys andinterviews to learn how well the LAES program meets current workplace needs; employersacross the board gave our students high marks on their ability to think critically and creatively,work effectively, and serve as responsible, informed citizens in a global culture. We alsoassessed student perceptions of the program and asked students to offer recommendations forfuture improvement. Across the board, students felt strongly that LAES helped them achievepersonal learning objectives and prepared them to meet their goals as professionals. All studentssurveyed indicated they would have either left or remained extremely unhappyin their current majors if not offered the opportunity to switch into LAES. nowbelieves the flexibility and interdisciplinary variety offered by LAES is a key element forgenerating higher student retention.In this paper, we present the results of our survey and interview work. We discuss how thefindings verify the claim made throughout the life of the program that LAES-likeinterdisciplinary programs are ideal for helping students become effective members of the 21stcentury workforce. Our goal is to provide basic organizational advice and statistical support forothers who are interested in establishing similar interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees.

Haungs, M., & Gillette, D., & Valencia-Laver, D. L., & Lowham, E. A. (2013, June), Assessing Student and Employer Satisfaction in a Liberal Arts/Engineering Bachelor of Arts Degree Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19230

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