Asee peer logo

Ethics for the "Me" Generation - How "Millennial" Engineering Students View Ethical Responsibility in the Engineering Profession

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Understanding our Students & Ethical Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.540.1 - 24.540.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Natalie C.T. Van Tyne Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Natalie Van Tyne is a Teaching Associate Professor and Director of the Design EPICS Program at Colorado School of Mines. Her background is in chemical and environmental engineering, and she is a registered professional engineer in Colorado. She has been teaching first year and second year fundamental engineering design courses since 2002, and her research interests are in service learning, reflective learning, and assessment of effective teaching and learning at the university level.

visit author page


Maria Brunhart-Lupo Colorado School of Mines

visit author page

Maria Brunhart-Lupo is an adjunct faculty member in both the Design EPICS Program and the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Her background is in geotechnical engineering, applied geology and geoscience/engineering education. Her research in STEM education currently centers around undergraduate and graduate course development and how to best teach STEM based materials to students of all levels.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Ethics for the “Me” Generation – How “Millennial” Engineering Students View Ethical Responsibility in the Engineering ProfessionCommon observations about the millennial generation include a tendency to be self-centered, asense of entitlement, a fondness for networking in a variety of forms, and a demand that value bearticulated in ways that make sense to them, and without any ambiguity. On the positive side,this generation is noted for its open-mindedness, inclusivity, enthusiasm and optimism for work,adaptability and a desire to act in an ethical manner. Knowing that our current population ofundergraduate engineering students is part of the “millennial generation”, we wondered whetherthe social and cultural values ascribed to this generation would be reflected in theirunderstanding of professional responsibility and ethics in the practice of engineering.As a part of a one-semester engineering design course at a public university in the westernUnited States, we conduct a workshop in engineering ethics with a discussion of the ABET Codeof Ethics for Engineers, followed by a case study of an ethical dilemma in an industrialworkplace. During the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters we included an assessment surveyof the workshop content and delivery, between one week and two weeks later, to determine howwell the students understood the meaning of ethical responsibility and could identify appropriateways to respond when ethically difficult decisions need to be made in the engineering workplace.The focus of this study is on student responses to an open-ended question in the survey whichasked students to list two primary behaviors or actions that engineers must follow whenperforming their professional duties. Across the two samples, the most popular responses relatedideas of integrity, safety, honesty, and improving human welfare/society. While the workshopleaders emphasized that the study of ethics involves personal values or morals as applied todealing with other people, it is notable that responses involving society were not the mostfrequent among either group. This might indicate that these students, as members of themillennial generation, either view morals or values on a primarily personal level, or just do nothave the experience, yet, to realize that interpersonal relations and actions are influenced byfundamental values and knowledge of how to do the “right” thing in a situation where multiplesolutions or actions are possible, and where two or more ethical principles may be in conflict.

Van Tyne, N. C., & Brunhart-Lupo, M. (2014, June), Ethics for the "Me" Generation - How "Millennial" Engineering Students View Ethical Responsibility in the Engineering Profession Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20431

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: © 2014 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