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Do Philosophy Majors Make Good Systems Engineers?

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Systems Engineering Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

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Paper Authors


Oscar H. Salcedo University of Texas, El Paso

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Bachelors of Science in Mech Engineering, Master of Arts in Political Science, currently pursuing PhD degree in Engineering Education. Director of Corporate Relations for College of Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Coordinator for the Research Institute for Manufacturing and Engineering Systems.

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In an effort to diversify the pool of applicants to our graduate Systems Engineering program, we decided to experiment with a four non-engineering students who nonetheless had high interest in Systems Engineering graduate work. The first cohort was admitted in 2009 and we have tracked their professional experiences since graduation. This paper is a qualitative and case-study approach which looks at themes and issues encountered by these four students in a graduate Systems Engineering program during their academic career and also 3-4 years into their professional careers. These students came in with Bachelors in Philosophy, Healthcare, Business Administration, and Supply Chain Management. All completed leveling courses primarily in Mathematics and Engineering. Leveling courses were dependent on the student’s background and were in the range of 5-8 leveling courses. We found that all of these students took two semesters longer to graduate because of the leveling courses. We also found that all four had higher grade-point-averages then their peers in graduation. All reported increased motivation because they felt they had “something to prove” because of their non-engineering background. Three to four years after graduation the report being seen by their colleagues and by themselves as successful Systems Engineers working in large aerospace, telecommunication, and automotive industries. The paper outlines the strengths and weaknesses of the effort from the student’s perspective. We also offer recommendations which we feel may be factors to consider in similar efforts to diversify applicant pools for specific programs.

Salcedo, O. H. (2016, June), Do Philosophy Majors Make Good Systems Engineers? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26859

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