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Engineering Education In A Liberal Arts Environment At Baylor University

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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

Integrating Engineering and the Liberal Arts

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.480.1 - 7.480.9

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Paper Authors

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Kenneth Van Treuren

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Engineering Education in a Liberal Arts Environment at Baylor University

Ken Van Treuren, Steven Eisenbarth Baylor University


Engineering programs that exist in a liberal arts environment struggle to be understood. They constantly have to defend their program to university administrators, administrators who are not engineers or science oriented by education. This paper outlines the development of engineering as an intellectual discipline, putting it on equal terms with arts and sciences. Next, the paper traces the development of Baylor University’s engineering program from 1979 to present. The motivations for this engineering program and the growth of the program over the past two decades are examined. Baylor University’s Baptist heritage has also significantly impacted the present program. The present program is analyzed with the constraints imposed by accreditation and the institution itself. The conclusion reached is that there are few academic courses available for development of a liberal arts concentration. Baylor University is in the midst of defining itself in terms of a 10-year vision. This has resulted in an Academic Summit which is imposing additional liberal arts requirements. In the end, three questions are posed: 1) Are Specialized Liberal Arts Courses Required?; 2) Can Engineering & Liberal Arts be Integrated?; and 3) How Can the Liberal Arts Support Engineering? Lastly, this paper examines the integration of liberal arts into engineering education to develop a Christian worldview as stated in Baylor University’s mission statement. The authors conclude that a common liberal arts core for Baylor University is not the answer for engineering programs and proposals are given to satisfy liberal arts requirements.


V. James Mannoia Jr. points out in his book Christian Liberal Arts: An Education That Goes Beyond that defining the term liberal arts is not without difficulty1. The “basket approach” would describe the content of a liberal arts education as a collection of skills or competencies. This collection could include elements of oral and written expression, analytical and critical thinking, familiarity with great literary works, an understanding of ethical and moral imperatives, a grasp of cultural history, just to name the more obvious. Clearly the process of adding to the basket is subjective.

Others would use an “a priori” approach with focus on self-evident themes and principles following classical education designs championed by icons such as Cicero (education of the citizen) and Plato (learning for learning’s sake). For the most part, this approach focuses on the cultural past in an attempt to understand and interpret the present. By implication, the most

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright @ 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Van Treuren, K. (2002, June), Engineering Education In A Liberal Arts Environment At Baylor University Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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