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Environmental Engineering Education And Community Service: A Synergistic Partnership

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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

Reaching Out to the Community

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.519.1 - 7.519.6



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Paper Authors

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Paul Kirshen

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John Durant

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

Main Menu Session 2561

Environmental Engineering Education and Community Service: A Synergistic Partnership

Christopher W. Swan, Paul Kirshen, John Durant Tufts University

Abstract Community-based service learning, the pedagogy of combining education with community service, exists and has value in a number of academic fields. In the past few years, environmental engineering has become a field where community service learning has been found to be synergistic, providing benefits to both the community and academia. This paper highlights ways in which community service learning can become integrated in an environmental engineering curriculum, how service learning can be a valuable tool in educating tomorrow's engineers, and how service learning can be beneficial to the communities and the academic institution(s) involved. The experiences of Tufts University are used as specific examples of how community service learning has enriched the traditional environmental engineering curriculum. Whether applied in courses, in student-driven or university-funded initiatives, or in independent projects, community service learning has benefited students, the instructors, and participating communities. As a result, community service learning projects carry more meaning and encouraged greater learning because they involve a real problem. Additionally, the experience extends student learning beyond the technical aspects of the problem to see what impacts environmental issues have on people with a variety of interests and professional backgrounds.

Introduction A component of the mission statement of Tufts University is “to offer to …students a rigorous education …that provides the knowledge and intellectual skills to become responsible and productive participants and leaders of society; … to enhance learning and develop the potential of each student beyond, as well as within, the classroom; to encourage public service by students, faculty and staff, and to integrate service activities and experiential learning with teaching and research…” In order to implement this broad mission, the engineering curriculum must address both "hard" and "soft" aspects of environmental problems. Hard aspects concern the broad range of technical expertise needed to be an effective environmental engineer. Hard aspects in environmental problems come from a variety of technical disciplines including engineering (civil, mechanical, chemical, etc.), natural sciences (geology, chemistry, physics, biology, etc.) and specialized disciplines (microbiology, geochemistry, toxicology, etc.). However, effectively developing solutions to environmental problems often involves expertise in addressing non-technical, or soft, aspects. These aspects involve project management, communication, local and regional politics, economics, and social concerns of affected stakeholders. In most engineering design courses, these soft aspects typically are ignored. However, with respect to a number of environmental problems, soft aspects are just as, if not more, important to the overall success of the chosen environmental design. For the past few years, the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University has used components of

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Kirshen, P., & Durant, J., & Swan, C. (2002, June), Environmental Engineering Education And Community Service: A Synergistic Partnership Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10845

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