Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Social responsibility is a key touchstone of the engineering profession, yet research shows that engineering students’ perceptions of the importance of public welfare actually decrease as they progress through the undergraduate curriculum. This has direct implications for the diversity of engineering students and workforces. Qualitative studies, for example, find that undergraduate women who place a high value on social responsibility leave engineering programs when they encounter unsupportive environments, decontextualized technical courses, and curricular difficulty. This paper builds on prior literature by sharing the results of research that integrated critical social science perspectives on corporate social responsibility (CSR) into technical courses in petroleum engineering, mining engineering, and electrical engineering – three fields routinely characterized as enrolling the least diverse student bodies in terms of gender. Our data consist of three years of pre- and post-survey data for about 800 students in classes that included sociotechnical learning about CSR. Our previous research demonstrated that these course experiences broadened students’ understanding of legitimate stakeholders and increased their interest in engineering ethics. In this paper, we explore whether this instruction influenced their desire to work for companies with positive reputations for social responsibility. Specifically, we investigate if students’ ability to recognize CSR as an integrated sociotechnical endeavor that directly involves engineering (as opposed to CSR as a “social” activity such as volunteering that is separate from engineering) resulted in positive changes in their perceptions of business serving society and their own expressed desires to work for corporations with positive reputations for social responsibility. We find that while students’ expressed desires to work for a socially responsible company increased from the beginning to the end of the course, those changes were not directly associated with viewing CSR as sociotechnical. Moreover, for the cohort data we have, those gains made from the beginning to end of a course did hold from year-to-year; rather, students expressed lower desires to work for socially responsible companies as seniors than they did as sophomores.
Smith, J. M., & Rulifson, G., & Stanton, C. P., & McClelland, C. J., & Sarver, E., & Battalora, L. A., & Claussen, S., & Peterson, S. K., & Smith, N. M., & Kaunda , R. B. (2020, June), Counteracting the Social Responsibility Slump? Assessing Changes in Student Knowledge and Attitudes in Mining, Petroleum, and Electrical Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34338
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