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Developing a Framework for Civic Responsibility in Engineering Education

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Socially Responsible Engineering II: Pedagogy, Teamwork, and Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Athena Lin Purdue University at West Lafayette

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Athena Lin is a graduate student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. She received her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Justin L. Hess Purdue University at West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Justin L Hess is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His mission is to inspire change in engineering culture to become more socially responsive, environmentally friendly, and inclusive, thereby providing opportunities for all current and prospective engineers to reach their maximum potential and to help realize a sustainable world. Dr. Hess’s primary research interests including exploring the functional role of empathy in various domains, including engineering ethics, design, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. He received his PhD from Purdue University's School of Engineering Education, as well as a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science from Purdue University's School of Civil Engineering. He is the 2021 division chair-elect for the ASEE Liberal Education/Engineering and Society division and is the Editorial Board Chair for the Online Ethics Center.

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Civic responsibility aligns with the mission of engineering programs to graduate ethical engineers and the mission of many universities to graduate engaged citizens. Civic responsibility bridges engineers’ obligations as professionals within society through their roles as members of communities. Thus, we argue that civic responsibility warrants separate consideration from other forms of responsibility in engineering education, including social, ethical, and professional responsibility. In this paper, we first present an exploratory conceptual framework for how civic responsibility manifests in engineering education by drawing primarily from literature in engineering ethics on responsibility and civic virtue. Second, we use this framework to understand engineering students’ perceptions of the roles and responsibilities of engineers within communities. We conducted semi-structured interviews with eleven first-year engineering students whom we recruited from a mandatory first-year engineering course at a large Mid-Western land grant university in the United States. We identified three themes from the interviews: (1) the awareness of how engineers can serve their communities, (2) the belief that engineers should serve their communities, and (3) the distinction between personal and professional civic responsibility. We distilled these themes into the following dimensions of civic responsibility: personal and professional, virtue and obligation, and non-maleficence and beneficence. We close by connecting these findings to frameworks used to study other forms of responsibility in engineering education.

Lin, A., & Hess, J. L. (2021, July), Developing a Framework for Civic Responsibility in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36933

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