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Evaluation Of Abet Program Curricula Criteria For The Integration Of Sustainability Related Subject Areas

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Sustainability in Engineering Curricula

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.593.1 - 14.593.10



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Paper Authors


Michelle Jarvie Michigan Technological University

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Michelle Jarvie received her PhD in Engineering-Environmental from Michigan Technological University in August of 2007. Since that time, she has been working as an environmental engineer for Cliffs Natural Resources in Michigan. Ms. Jarvie has worked on a variety of issues including mine land reclamation, biofuels development, sustainable forest certification, environmental policy analysis, carbon reporting, carbon offsets and trading, as well as corporate sustainability reporting. She can be reached via email at or

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

AC 2009-1192: Evaluation of ABET Program Curricula Criteria for the Integration of Sustainability Related Subject Areas


ABET has also acknowledged the need for the integration of sustainability into engineering programs by including it in general criteria. A content analysis was performed on the criteria for each undergraduate program accredited by ABET. Sustainability and its component concepts of environment, society, and economy were identified within individual program criteria. As a relative measure of integration of sustainability into the program specific criteria, the number of individual programs containing reference to these concepts was compared to the number of programs referring to mathematics, a theme chosen because of its relevance to all engineering programs. All of these concepts were found with less frequency that the core subject area of mathematics. Sustainability was not specifically identified within any individual program criteria. Society was found within seven program criteria. Economy related concepts were found within five specific program criteria, while environment was identified within three. Despite the fact that much of the effort to develop sustainability related courses and teaching materials has been lead by environmental engineering programs and faculty, mining engineering was the only program criteria which specifically mentioned all three component concepts of sustainability.


Recently, sustainability has evolved as a discipline in its own right. Universities have developed graduate programs where the focus of study centers on sustainability, such as master’s programs at the Rochester Institute of Technology1 and the University of Michigan2. However, institutions must not make the mistake of focusing upon the evolution of sustainability into a stand-alone discipline, while neglecting the integration of sustainability related classes and concepts into all programs of engineering. A compelling argument for the integration of sustainability into existing engineering disciplines is made by Kirby et al: “The future of sustainable design will highly depend on institutions of higher education incorporating green concepts into the curriculum. Academic institutions can contribute to the acceptance of sustainability in architectural and engineering design by offering courses and programs on the subject.”3

ABET has also acknowledged the need for the integration of sustainability into engineering programs by including it in general criteria. Within the accreditation criteria effective for the 2008-2009 accreditation cycle, Criterion 3 (Program Outcomes) specifically addresses sustainability within all baccalaureate level programs. Criterion 3(c) states that engineering programs must demonstrate their students attain the following outcome: “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints, such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability.”4

Through these general Program Outcomes, ABET acknowledges the importance of considering sustainability within design. To do this, an understanding of the economic, environmental, and societal impacts (within sustainability, these impacts are often referred to as the Triple Bottom

Jarvie, M. (2009, June), Evaluation Of Abet Program Curricula Criteria For The Integration Of Sustainability Related Subject Areas Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5217

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