Asee peer logo

Engineering, Technology, And Society: Increasing The Dialogue Between Liberal Arts Majors And Engineering Students

Download Paper |


2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.444.1 - 6.444.10

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Joan A. Burtner

Download Paper |

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

Session 2661

Engineering, Technology and Society: Increasing the Dialogue Between Liberal Arts Majors and Engineering Students Joan A. Burtner Mercer University


The EC2000 Criterion 3 a-k outcomes have increased engineering educators’ awareness of the importance of contemporary and global issues in undergraduate engineering education. In an effort to increase college students’ understanding of ethical, professional, and contemporary issues related to engineering, a senior-level discussion-based seminar has been offered at Mercer University for three years. The course, which has been designed and taught by an engineering professor, is part of the College of Liberal Arts’ Senior Capstone program and is offered to students from any college in the university. The course structure encourages students to view contemporary issues from an organizational, personal and technical perspective. The presence of both engineering students and liberal arts students in the same class allows students to share knowledge and break down stereotypes as they study accomplishments in the fields of engineering and science.


The practice of engineering is not conducted in a vacuum. Engineering accomplishments affect society and, conversely society affects what engineers can accomplish. As Wilson observes, "Engineers who understand how their profession influences society are in a better position to consider the policy implications of engineering creations." 1 Through the years, the practice of engineering has become more complex. This is true not only of the machinery, such as nuclear power plants and Mars orbiters; but also of the systems in which they operate. According to Jolly and Radcliffe, "The modern engineer is asked to deal with ambiguous and changing circumstances and in a social and environmental context."2 Graduating engineers should be prepared to deal with such complex systems.

A strong foundation in the liberal arts can help give engineers the perspective they need to comprehend the social, ethical, and environmental implications of these ambiguous and changing situations. Since the 70s, certain engineering educators have been calling for inclusion of more humanities and social science courses in the required undergraduate engineering curriculum. As a result, some schools have strengthened the influence of the humanities and social science in the engineering curriculum by offering Science, Technology, and Society (STS) courses. STS courses, usually taught by liberal arts professors, have been developed in recognition of the interrelationships between technology and society. Lucena and Downey point out that, "Undergraduate STS courses for students tend to help students recognize that Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Burtner, J. A. (2001, June), Engineering, Technology, And Society: Increasing The Dialogue Between Liberal Arts Majors And Engineering Students Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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: © 2001 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