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Bringing Professional Experience Into The Classroom: Faculty Experiences

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Professional Issues in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.292.1 - 14.292.12



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Paper Authors


Karen Chou Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Karen C. Chou is Professor of Civil Engineering and former Civil Engineering Coordinator at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Chou has over 25 years of professional experience and is a registered P.E. in New York, Tennessee, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota.

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Deborah Nykanen Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Deborah K. Nykanen is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her teaching, research and professional experience focus on water resources, hydrology and hydrometeorology. Dr. Nykanen has 8 years of academic experience and is a registered P.E. in Minnesota.

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

Bringing Professional Experience into the Classroom – Faculty Experiences


For over two decades, ASCE has been advocating bringing faculty members to the work place to gain professional experience so that he/she could incorporate the experience into the classroom. While this is a wonderful concept, very few faculty members especially the young, non-tenured ones have taken advantage of the opportunity. The primary obstacle was believed to be the “publish or perish” criterion for tenure and promotion. This is especially true for those research focused institutions. Today, “publish or perish” is still believed to be the obstacle for the lack of faculty members working in the professional field while holding a full time faculty appointment.

The first author was a young faculty member two decades ago who used that exact reason for not seeking a summer engineering position while holding a faculty position. Two years ago, the first author had an opportunity to join a local architect firm as a part time structural engineer. The experience both personally and professionally is well beyond expectation. The second author also had an opportunity to work with a civil engineering firm during one summer. Her experience was significantly different from the first author. In this paper, the authors will summarize the benefits of their experience which have been used to enhance students’ learning, from the freshmen introduction to civil engineering class to the senior capstone design project. In addition, the authors will offer their perspective as a faculty-engineer and the factors influencing the effectiveness of this “dual” position. “Publish and perish” is not the only reason why so few faculty members are interested in this “dual” position. The support from engineering professionals is also very important. The owners of the firms must have genuine interest in having the faculty member incorporate his/her professional experience into the classroom to enhance student learning. They also need to be supportive of the faculty member and, in particular, be willing to accommodate a flexible work schedule.


It is well known that engineers apply mathematics and engineering principles and concepts to solve problems. Traditionally, the theoretical concepts are taught in the classroom while the applications of the theory, in particular the practical applications, are mostly acquired on the job. Unfortunately, this segregated dissemination of knowledge from the faculty and experienced engineers creates a gap that the engineering graduates must try to bridge upon entering the engineering profession.

The need to expose students to “real world” engineering practice during their academic learning process is embraced by students1,2, faculty, and the engineering profession. Efforts have been made over the past few decades in an attempt to provide the real world engineering experience to the students. Among them are internships3,4, co-op programs3, real-world based case studies and design projects5-10, a total re-design of the capstone design course11-12 under the current ABET accreditation criteria, bringing engineers to the classrooms as guest speakers, and having engineers as adjunct faculty. Each of these approaches yields various levels of success. Other

Chou, K., & Nykanen, D. (2009, June), Bringing Professional Experience Into The Classroom: Faculty Experiences Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5743

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015