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Implementing A Common First Year Engineering Program At Michigan Tech

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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

6.555.1 - 6.555.9

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Paper Authors

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Amy Monte

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Gretchen Hein

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Sheryl Sorby

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

Session 2793

Implementing a Common First Year Engineering Program at Michigan Tech

Sheryl A. Sorby, Amy E. Monte, Gretchen L. Hein Engineering Fundamentals Michigan Technological University Houghton, Michigan


In the fall of 2000, Michigan Tech made a calendar conversion from quarters to semesters and, in conjunction with this, simultaneously overhauled the engineering curricula. One of the changes that we adopted was the development of a common first year engineering program. Prior to the calendar conversion, each academic department in the College of Engineering established its own curriculum for the entire four-year degree program. During the course of the curricular revamp- ing, we also received funding from the NSF under the Action Agenda program with a portion of the grant dedicated to the implementation of the common first year engineering program. In designing our first year program, we “borrowed” ideas from several engineering schools, prima- rily those universities involved in the various NSF coalitions. This paper describes the procedure we followed to implement this sweeping curricular change and highlights the features that we incorporated into our first-year engineering program. Preliminary feedback and assessment from the first-year program as well as “lessons learned” will also be presented in the paper.

The Timeline and Procedure for Change

Step 1: Establishing the Leadership. In December of 1996, a new Dean of Engineering was hired at Michigan Tech. Soon after arriving on campus, he met with one of the authors (Sorby) to dis- cuss his desire to develop a common first-year engineering program. Shortly thereafter, the deci- sion was made to convert from quarters to semesters at Michigan Tech. The initiative to change the academic calendar to semesters was faculty driven, based primarily on educational objectives, and was not imposed by the administration or state government. In our quarter calendar, the win- ter term was disjointed with several breaks during its 10-week duration. The sentiment among the faculty was that this disjointed calendar along with the fast pace of 10-week quarters in the fall and spring did not allow students enough time for reflection on the material they were learning. There was a commitment on the part of the faculty and administration in the College of Engineer- ing (COE) to look critically at existing programs and develop new, innovative curricula rather than “cut and paste” our quarter courses to fit the new academic calendar. In the coming months, the dean appointed Sorby to be the Director of General Engineering, charged with developing and implementing a common first-year engineering program at Michigan Tech. At about the same

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Monte, A., & Hein, G., & Sorby, S. (2001, June), Implementing A Common First Year Engineering Program At Michigan Tech Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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