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Designing A Discipline Specific Introductory Course For Freshmen

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.377.1 - 7.377.7



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Phillip Thompson

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Designing a Discipline-Specific Introductory Course for Freshmen Phillip L. Thompson Seattle University

Abstract This paper discusses the creation of an introductory course in civil and environmental engineering for freshman or sophomore students. The objective of the course was to increase recruitment of undecided students and to increase overall student retention. The course was designed to stimulate excitement for the discipline and to help students develop goals for career success. The course was divided into five units that corresponded to the civil engineering sub- disciplines of structural, geotechnical, environmental, water resources and transportation engineering. A different faculty member began each unit with an overview of his or her area of expertise. A guest speaker from private consulting, government or industry followed this general overview by providing students with examples of typical projects and work environments. The third phase of each unit involved a hands-on laboratory, computer activity or site visit, which also had the purpose of instilling excitement for civil engineering. This paper will report on the assessment of these activities, which included using the West Point Bridge Design program as well as a unique water system layout project. The paper highlights other successes and failures and underscores how such a course can be designed to address accreditation requirements.

Introduction The retention of undergraduates in the civil engineering program is a significa nt concern. Freshman and sophomore students are perhaps the most likely to change majors, and this is not necessarily because the students are unable to achieve academically. The Civil Engineering curriculum at Seattle University is structured so that majors do not actually take Civil Engineering courses until their junior year. As a result, many students lose focus and begin to question the selection of their major.

To address this issue, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering offered Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEEGR 100) during Fall Quarter 2001. The course was partly modeled as a freshman seminar, since it focused on the use of guest speakers and active learning tools to illustrate the practical aspects of c ivil engineering and how it affects the daily lives of all people in the form of water conveyance, structures, transportation and beyond. Another purpose of this course was to introduce each member of the faculty by providing at least one lecture in their field of expertise. The ultimate objective was to provide the student with a real sense of why they will be taught some of the topics during their first two years that may otherwise seem to be esoteric in nature. In other words, the course was intended to demonstrate all of the interesting things that civil engineers do while framing the need for the basics. It is through this perspective that student interest and thus retention may increase.

CEEGR 100 was a 2-credit course open to all students but intended for freshman or sophomores. The course met for two 50-minute periods per week for ten weeks. The course was divided into five units that corresponded to the civil engineering sub-disciplines of structural, geotechnical, environmental, water resources and transportation engineering. Each of the five units was

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Thompson, P. (2002, June), Designing A Discipline Specific Introductory Course For Freshmen Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10056

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: © 2002 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