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Environmental Health For Developing Communities Pilot Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Sustainable Engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.593.1 - 11.593.9



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Paper Authors


Angela Bielefeldt University of Colorado-Boulder

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Dr. Bielefeldt is an Associate Professor and a licensed P.E. in the State of Colorado. She teaches Civil and Environmental Engineering courses for freshman, seniors, and graduate students on topics including design, hazardous waste management, solid waste management, and bioremediation. She is a co-faculty advisor for the Engineers Without Borders student chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) and is working with other faculty at CU to start a new emphasis in Engineering for Developing Communities at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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Diana Shannon University of Colorado-Denver

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Diana Shannon has worked over 27 years in the areas of environmental health and environmental protection. She has worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Boulder County Health Department, City and County of Denver. She co-developed and co-taught the Environmental Health for Developing Communities course. She currently serves as Assistant Chair in the Department of Planning and Design, College of Architecture and Planning, at CU Denver.

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Jay Shah University of Colorado-Boulder

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Jay Shah is earning his M.S. degree in Civil Engineering in the EDC program. Jay was a Research Assistant funded by the NSF grant on Department Level Reform to create an EDC program at the undergraduate level. Jay served in the Peace Corps in Nepal from 2000 to 2002. In 2005, Shah was awarded the Franklin H. Williams Award; the award pays tribute to returned Peace Corps volunteers of color who show an ongoing commitment to community service and who support the agency's third goal of promoting a better understanding of other countries and peoples to Americans.

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R. Scott Summers University of Colorado-Boulder

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Professor Summers is the director of the Center for Drinking Water Optimization. His research areas include drinking water quality and treatment, natural organic matter, disinfection by-products, organic and inorganic contaminants and physical, chemical and biological drinking water treatment processes. He is one of the three faculty in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at CU leading the Engineering for Developing Communities program at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

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Jim Ruttenber University of Colorado

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Dr. Ruttenber, M.D., Ph.D., co-developed and co-taught the Environmental Health for Developing Communities course in 2005 and 2006. He is an Associate Professor in the University of Colorado at Denver's Health Science Program. His research focuses on occupational and environmental health, risk assessment, and environmental epidemiology.

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

Environmental Health for Developing Communities Pilot Course Abstract

Public health is an increasingly important issue for environmental engineers, as indicated by the ABET 2005-2006 accreditation guidelines. An Environmental Health for Developing Communities course was developed as part of the new Engineering for Developing Communities (EDC) option for Environmental / Civil Engineering students at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU). This course provides students with a basic understanding of environmental health issues, methods, and practices through an emphasis on their application in developing communities worldwide. The course emphasizes sustainable approaches for improving public health and the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between practitioners of public health, the environmental sciences, and engineering. The course was piloted for the first time in Spring 2005 to eight graduate students. Semester-long team projects were associated with existing Engineers Without Borders (EWB) - CU projects in Peru, Mali, and Rwanda. The students identified the major health problems in the community, indicated engineering solutions that would improve these, and prioritized the health problems and solutions with regards to costs and benefits. Feedback from the students and instructors was gathered via a mid-term questionnaire, end of semester surveys, and the traditional Faculty Course Questionnaire (FCQ) administered by CU. In the future, the course will be cross-listed as an undergraduate course and dual-listed for Environmental Studies majors.


Historically, a key driver for environmental engineering activities was the prevention of negative public health impacts. While this is still true today, engineering courses often focus more on regulatory compliance than the public health drivers behind U.S. regulations. In developing countries that lack significant environmental regulations or enforcement, an understanding of public health is critical to the design and implementation of appropriate facilities for water treatment and waste management. The ABET 2005-2006 accreditation guidelines for Environmental Engineering degrees states that: “The program must demonstrate the graduates have introductory level knowledge of environmental issues associated with air, land, and water systems and associated environmental health impacts.”1 Other entities are also trying to reform engineering education, such as the National Academy of Engineering’s “The Engineering of 2020” report which notes that engineers must “develop and implement more ecologically sustainable practices… in industrialized countries and developing countries alike” using “systems-based strategies and holistic approaches that embed social and cultural objectives.”2

In spite of these important indicators of the importance of training our students in issues related to society and public health, most undergraduate environmental engineering programs lack a required course in public health. A survey of ABET accredited B.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering ( using curriculum published on each university’s website revealed that of 47 programs: 12 require a course in public health, environmental toxicology, or industrial hygiene at the junior or senior level; and an additional four programs include one of these courses on a list of recommended technical electives (note that at six programs a clearly defined curriculum could not be located on the web). Six other

Bielefeldt, A., & Shannon, D., & Shah, J., & Summers, R. S., & Ruttenber, J. (2006, June), Environmental Health For Developing Communities Pilot Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--717

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