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Incorporating Ethics and Professionalism into Environmental Engineering Curriculum

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Professional and Regulatory Issues in Ethics

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Ramanitharan Kandiah P.E. Central State University Orcid 16x16

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Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, International Center for Water Resources Management, Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio. He is a co-author of the textbook, 'Introduction to Water Resources'. He holds a PhD in Civil Engineering from Tulane University and a registered Professional Civil Engineer in Ohio.

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Krishna Kumar V Nedunuri International Center for Water Resources

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Dr. Nedunuri is the Director of the International Center for Water Resources Management. He is also the Chairperson/Professor of Water Resources Management and Environmental Engineering at Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio. He holds a PhD in the area of Hydraulics and Environmental Engineering from Purdue University. He co-authored a textbook titled 'Introduction to Water Resources’ published by Kendall Hunt.

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Ning Zhang Central State University

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Dr. Ning Zhang currently is an assistant professor at Central State University. Dr. Zhang holds a Ph.D. degree in Environmental Engineering from West Virginia University. She has expertise in physical and chemical processes for water and wastewater treatment. Her research interests are water/wastewater treatment technology development, water quality monitoring, environmental risk assessment, and environmental sustainability. Courses taught by her including environmental engineering, water resources engineering, water chemistry, and limnology.

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Ethics is a vital component and compass to any profession. In the engineering, the importance of ethics has been stressed in the recent years more than ever. While the state licensure bodies monitor the professional conduct of the engineers, professional engineering bodies like NSPE, ASCE and AAEES insist and expect their members have good moral character and ethical integrity.

This professional requirement calls the engineering educators develop the engineering curriculum enriched with ethics and professionalism. However, given the allowable course credit hours for a four year program and the considerable number of general education courses, engineering prerequisites and engineering courses, it is always challenging to offer an individual course on topics of ethics and professional conduct.

This presentation summarizes a three-year period of efforts and intended future plans to enhance the ethics and professionalism related topics in the curriculum of a relatively new undergraduate program in Environmental Engineering.

This environmental engineering curriculum in its original form focused on introducing professionalism primarily through one-credit hour per semester course, Environmental Professional Seminar. In this course, the guest speakers from industry and academia presented on various topics including technology, management, legislation and research. The students were assessed with the reviews of these talks.

However, the instructors felt more on formal teaching and practice on ethics and professional conduct needed to raise the awareness in accordance with ABET Student Outcome-f and professional body expectations. They also felt it was needed more than one course to achieve this goal.

The actions were taken mainly by reformulating the course, Environmental Professional Seminar, by infusing ethics and professionalism related components into other courses such as Environmental Engineering Senior Capstone Design I and II, and by other venues such as internship and undergraduate research.

In addition to the guest talks, Environmental Professional Seminar had subsequently introduced formal topics on professional engineering societies and their codes of ethics, discussion on case studies on ethics and professional conduct and reviews of contemporary ethical issues in engineering. They were assessed with the reviews, case study analysis and examinations on these topics. In addition, this course was also used in assessing the improvement in the ABET-Student Outcome-f in two consequent cycles.

The courses Environmental Engineering Senior Capstone Design I and II were used to enhance the student experience on professional conduct, especially on managing time sensitive projects. Summer internship provides the students opportunities to learn the ethics and professional conduct from the industry itself. While occasional feedback from students’ industry mentors are useful for assessment, this process is yet to be adapted for every student. Students who do undergraduate research are expected to pass an online training course, Responsible Conduct of Research for Engineers provided by a third party. While this is useful in learning ethics and professional conduct, not all the environmental engineering students do undergraduate research.

In the future, to further enhance the knowledge of ethics and professional conduct, summer internship feedback and the Responsible Conduct of Research for Engineers training will be made mandatory for the environmental students.

Kandiah, R., & Nedunuri, K. K. V., & Zhang, N. (2017, June), Incorporating Ethics and Professionalism into Environmental Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28508

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