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Engineering Curriculum Development To Address Globalization

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Integrating H&SS in Engineering II

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.539.1 - 10.539.9



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Paper Authors

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Steven Reyer

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Stephen Williams

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Joerg Mossbrucker

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Owe Petersen

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

Session 2661

Preparing for Uncertainty – Addressing Globalization in an Engineering Curriculum Stephen Williams, Jörg Mossbrucker, Steven Reyer, and Owe Petersen Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Milwaukee School of Engineering, USA


How can an engineering curriculum more realistically prepare graduates for a changing world where global effects and events are experienced increasingly on a local scale? Globalization is a significant effect that is faced by graduates of all institutions and degree programs. Hence, the nature of this issue must be better understood to pursue an effective strategy for the curricula development needed to prepare engineering graduates for a rapidly changing world.

A central point is that engineering programs, in general, do a very good job of teaching structured problem solving, e.g., “design a system with the following specifications.” However, events such as globalization present challenges and opportunities in the form of unstructured problems. This is very different from problems with “open-ended” solutions, where the focus is on the end result and how it is achieved. In the case of unstructured problems, the solution again can be open-ended, but fundamentally the problem itself is not defined in terms of specifics.

Using globalization as a primary vehicle, the nature of unstructured problems is defined and approaches for engaging this issue in an engineering curriculum are suggested. In particular, the need for the development of strong professional skills and global awareness are identified as being essential. Increased integration of professional skills development into an engineering curriculum is detailed.


U.S. engineering students have historically enjoyed relatively high employment rates on graduation. Recent trends in the offshore outsourcing of high technology jobs are introducing uncertainty about the long term future of U.S. engineering employment. The globalization of career competition, while well-recognized by now1, is nevertheless an issue that is diffused and difficult to address2.

Globalization is a well-documented phenomenon. Yet its impact on unemployment and career opportunities is being actively debated3,4. Some experts claim that increased productivity is the major factor influencing the availability of jobs. However, concerns are being voiced that a core assumption associated with globalization, that labor intensive and low-skill jobs can be performed more productively elsewhere while the U.S. workforce produces higher-valued goods, is a premise that “cannot be counted on to create …net gains greater than the net losses from trade.”5

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Reyer, S., & Williams, S., & Mossbrucker, J., & Petersen, O. (2005, June), Engineering Curriculum Development To Address Globalization Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14914

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