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Engagement of Practitioners to Produce Balanced and Fundamentally Well-Grounded Civil Engineers

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Technical Session 8

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.603.1 - 26.603.12



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Paper Authors


Isaac L. Howard PE Mississippi State University Orcid 16x16

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Isaac L. Howard is the Materials and Construction Industries Endowed Chair within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Mississippi State University. He is a member of the Bagley College of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers and obtained bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees in Civil Engineering from Arkansas State University, West Virginia University, and the University of Arkansas, respectively.

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Engagement of Practitioners to Produce Balanced and Fundamentally Well Grounded Civil EngineersAbstractOver the past few years, the materials area within the Civil and Environmental Engineeringdepartment at a southeastern US university has prioritized producing engineering graduates thatare balanced and well grounded in fundamental concepts. To do so, emphasis has been given todevelopment and sustainment of a program that is sound at all levels (bachelors, masters, anddoctoral) and includes opportunities in and out of the classroom. Engagement of practitioners(e.g. agency personnel, consultants, contractors, material suppliers, and private researchlaboratory personnel) has been a key component of this process, and is the focus of this paper.The primary objective of this paper is to present the program mentioned in the previousparagraph, describe practitioner’s roles therein, and present information on how and whypractitioner involvement has been beneficial. Specifically: 1) that engaging practitioners withina balanced program can be helpful to maintaining balance; 2) that practitioners can be helpful asan assessment tool relative to producing engineering graduates that are well grounded infundamental concepts; and 3) that practitioner impact can be enhanced within a balancedprogram differently than in a program that emphasizes one area over another (e.g. bachelorsstudents emphasized over doctoral students, or vice versa).While this paper’s overall emphasis is not unique, practitioner involvement is: 1) important tothe educational process; 2) not always easy to obtain; 3) not always easy to effectively utilize; 4)a key to the presence or absence of balance; and 5) debated amongst education literature. Thispaper aims to address all these aspects of practitioner involvement in the context of the programpresented over the 2008 through 2013 time frame.A special topics summer course offering is highlighted in this paper where undergraduate andgraduate students were able to be engaged in the re-construction of a large air force base runway.Students sampled and tested the bituminous materials used during construction, and comparedthose properties to other material combinations. Overall, students saw the major facets of the airforce base construction: materials/design, production, placement, laboratory testing, and analysis,while also getting to present their final product to twelve practitioners. This coursesimultaneously highlights several important points relative to practitioner roles in a balancedprogram such as: 1) this opportunity was at least partially a function of ongoing relationshipswith practitioners; 2) students with different levels of experience were challenged in this projectin different ways and ultimately complimented each other; and 3) students were able to transitiontheir perspective relative to practitioners from anxiety to anxiousness to confidence toaccomplishment to acceptance through this course.Practitioner survey results related to the materials program are also presented in this paper thatsupport the balanced approach being taken. The primary assessment to date is the program asdescribed in this paper seems to be working. The concepts presented herein should be applicableto any construction material or industry.

Howard, I. L. (2015, June), Engagement of Practitioners to Produce Balanced and Fundamentally Well-Grounded Civil Engineers Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23941

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