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Improving Undergraduate Engineering Ethics Through Application of Engineering Management Theory: An Empirical Study of a New Course’s Impact

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.723.1 - 23.723.11



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Paper Authors


William J. Schell IV P.E. Montana State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. William J. Schell holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering-Engineering Management from University of Alabama in Huntsville and M.S. and B.S degrees from Montana State University in Industrial and Management Engineering. He is an assistant professor in Industrial and Management Engineering at Montana State University where his primary research interests are engineering education, leadership development and healthcare process improvement. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Schell spent over a decade in industry focused on process improvement and organizational development. This time included roles as VP of Strategy and Development for, VP of Operations Engineering for Wells Fargo Bank, leadership and engineering positions of increasing responsibility with American Express, where his last position was Director of Global Business Transformation, and engineering positions with the Montana MEP.

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Improving Undergraduate Engineering Ethics Through Application of Engineering Management Theory: An Empirical Study of a New Course’s ImpactIn light of the near constant onslaught of front page news regarding the transgressions of ourcorporate citizens and leaders, it seems that the ethical norms of organizations are in need ofstrengthening. Engineering educators should play a key role in this improvement by ensuringthat engineering ethics becomes an increasingly important component of professional practiceand engineering education. This paper explores the approach and results of a new coursedesigned to strengthen undergraduate student’s awareness of and ability to apply ethicalstandards to complex decision making.The need of providing an ethical foundation for students in engineering programs is wellrecognized and a clear expectation for programs seeking to gain or maintain ABET accreditation.Despite clear standards that engineering programs should provide an understanding ofprofessional and ethical responsibility, recent literature points to numerous issues regarding theethics component of engineering education including insufficient or sporadic coverage of thetopic and use of ineffective case studies. As part of a larger redesign of an industrial engineeringcurriculum, an existing two credit course on Professional Practice and Responsibility wasreplaced with a three credit course on Engineering Management and Ethics. The redesignprovided a clear avenue to increase the relative complexities of assigned student cases byfocusing on managerial decision making in the engineering context. Student engagement inworking through these complex problems was facilitated through a blended delivery method thatincluded small and large group discussions, structured debates and online discussions.Individual understanding was further reinforced through written papers that presented theopportunity for rewrites. The specific techniques incorporated to engage students are outlinedalong with a qualitative discussion of the level of student engagement driven by the varioustechniques employed. The qualitative discussion of the initial pilot of the course is augmentedby quantitative results and analysis using data collected through the Engineering and SciencesIssues Test (ESIT), which was deployed two times during the course. The before and afterresults are compared and opportunities for further improvements are discussed.

Schell, W. J. (2013, June), Improving Undergraduate Engineering Ethics Through Application of Engineering Management Theory: An Empirical Study of a New Course’s Impact Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19737

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