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Creating Classroom Links Between Public Administration And Civil Engineering Disciplines

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Teaching Engineering and Public Policy

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.342.1 - 13.342.7



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Paper Authors

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Philip Dunn University of Maine


Kenneth Nichols University of Maine

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Kenneth Nichols holds a doctorate from Georgetown University. He retired from a career with IRS before changing careers into teaching. He teaches courses in Public Administration at the University of Maine in Orono

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

Creating Classroom Links between Public Administration and Civil Engineering Disciplines


Professionals from the public administration and civil engineering fields are always working together in practice. Public administration professionals are decision makers who provide the long-term plan and vision for development within federal, state, and local levels. As decision makers, these professionals decide which projects are viable. Engineering professionals design, analyze, and execute planned projects. These professionals take the vision to a reality that ultimately the public uses and the public administration professional needs to maintain.

Though public administration and engineering professionals work together, they often misunderstand one another’s roles. The public administration professional works within a public policymaking process and regulatory sphere that determine what projects are funded and supported. The engineer works within a set of standards and professional protocols that constitute acceptable design practice. Understanding one another’s constraints and motivators forms the basis of a productive working relationship.

At our university, public administration and civil engineering disciplines are working cooperatively to bring future professionals together in the classroom. By exposing students to the views of the other discipline within the context of their own studies, students become aware of processes involved in developing projects rather than needing to develop this skill on the job.

Introduction and Background

With the ever-increasing demands to replace deteriorating infrastructure, public officials must make continual decisions on the best courses of action. When these officials need to make decisions beyond their training and experience, they often hire and must rely on the knowledge and expertise of consulting engineers. Engineers assess the problems identified by the public officials and provide solutions for repair, replacement, and expansion. Though the technical solutions are accurate, the public officials must balance the political and economic impacts to reach the best answer for the given situation.1

Engineers are technically trained to examine safety, economics, and efficiency problems for the best solutions as they review deteriorating infrastructure from the aspect of materials, design, and standards imposed through professional practice. Engineers base solutions on the best methods and tend to be insulated from the political environment. Consequently, in working with one another, public officials and engineers have different perspectives on the best ways to proceed. Public officials operate in the political problem-solving environment whereas engineers operate in the technical problem-solving environment. Their differing perspectives, professional jargon, and varied experience levels provide the ingredients for miscommunication between public officials and engineers. Both professions strive to act in the best interests of the public,

Dunn, P., & Nichols, K. (2008, June), Creating Classroom Links Between Public Administration And Civil Engineering Disciplines Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4377

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