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Challenges for Integration of Sustainability into Engineering Education

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.294.1 - 25.294.10



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Paper Authors


Qiong Zhang University of South Florida

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Qiong Zhang is an Assistant Professor in civil and environmental engineering at the University of South Florida (USF). She received a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Michigan Tech. Prior to joining the faculty at USF in 2009, she served as the Operations Manager of the Sustainable Future Institute at Michigan Tech.

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Linda Vanasupa California Polytechnic State University


James R. Mihelcic University of South Florida

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James R. Mihelcic is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and state of Florida 21st Century World Class Scholar at the University of South Florida. He directs the Peace Corps master’s international program in civil and environmental engineering ( Mihelcic is a Past President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), a member of the EPA Science Advisory Board, and a board-certified member and Board Trustee of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers (AAEE). He is lead author for three textbooks: Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering (John Wiley & Sons, 1999); Field Guide in Environmental Engineering for Development Workers: Water, Sanitation, Indoor Air (ASCE Press, 2009); and, Environmental Engineering: Fundamentals, Sustainability, Design (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).

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Julie Beth Zimmerman Yale University

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Simona Platukyte University of South Florida

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Challenges for Integration of Sustainability into Engineering EducationAbstractInterest in integration of sustainability into engineering education has steadily advanced in thelast decade. This trend has been observed in the rising number of courses relating tosustainability taught at the university level, funding for related research, and the number ofpublications on the subject. However, due to the relative novelty of the subject in the engineeringcommunity and its complexity, many challenges remain to successful integration ofsustainability education in engineering. It is critical to realize such challenges and identify theappropriate strategies so that teaching of sustainability to future engineers can be effective. Thispaper summarizes the challenges identified from three workshops on “Integrating Sustainabilityinto Engineering: Design Principles and Tools to Expand your Educative Capacity” held in 2010and 2011, and attempts to propose effective strategies for such integration.These workshops are designed for engineering educators to expand their capacity to integratesustainable development design principles into existing engineering curricula. Our strategy is toempower participants through guided practice with a set of learning activities and tools that canbe applied to the learning environments distinctive to their own institutions. During theseworkshops, participants were first asked to self-identify their level of proficiency in teaching andin sustainability and then to identify challenges they face in incorporating sustainability intoengineering education. Those challenges were later organized into major categories collectivelyby the workshop attendees. After the workshop, a “mind map” was constructed to show theidentified challenges in relation to the major categories.The paper will begin with a brief overview of the status of sustainability education inengineering education and then introduce the format of the workshop, the characteristics ofworkshop attendees, and the major categories and challenges identified during workshops. Themajor categories include 1) shifting paradigms around sustainability; 2) rigidity of existingeducation system; 3) lack of new methods of teaching; and 4) lack of resources to teachsustainability. The interrelationship among the challenges within the categories will be exploredthrough use of a causal loop diagram. The paper will discuss feedback loops in such a systemdiagram, the potential leverage points, and effective strategies to address some of the identifiedchallenges for integration of sustainability into engineering education.

Zhang, Q., & Vanasupa, L., & Mihelcic, J. R., & Zimmerman, J. B., & Platukyte, S. (2012, June), Challenges for Integration of Sustainability into Engineering Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21052

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