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Incorporating Global Issues Into Freshman Engineering Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

FPD4 -- Hands-on & Real-World Studies

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.872.1 - 12.872.12



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Paper Authors

author page

Larry Bland John Brown University

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

Incorporating Global Issues into Freshman Engineering Course Abstract

This paper documents the redesign of a freshman engineering concepts course to incorporate various global/intercultural issues that our students will face if they stay in an engineering career. Today’s engineering students graduate in a world that is becoming highly competitive as geographical barriers are being eliminated, and engineering activities are truly global in nature. To remain competitive, students must develop global skills and competencies to be leaders and participants in cross-cultural engineering teams. This extension of students’ skills is very compatible with ABET initiatives. ABET has established requirements for professional skills outcomes that are directly fulfilled by cross-cultural/global studies. However, many of our engineering curricula do not address globalization for all students. John Brown University (JBU) is integrating global issues into all years of a student’s educational experience. This task starts with the redesign of the freshman course.

The original course structure follows the basic philosophy of providing the student a broad knowledge of what engineering is and the various disciplines that can be chosen to meet career desires. One of the key objectives is to provide sufficient information about various engineering disciplines so that a student can make an informed choice of a major. Students are informed regarding the ABET Engineering Criterion 2000 and how it will affect their educational experience. A key element of modifying the course to include global issues was to maintain current objectives, introduce them from a global perspective, and not overload this introductory course for either the student or the professor. This paper will describe the resulting course with assessment and lessons learned for improvement.


To be effective engineers and global citizens, today’s engineering students must understand the global nature of society and the complexities of a world economy. The National Academy of Engineering projects that, because of growing political and economic ties among nations, engineers will discover that their designs have much broader and more significant impacts than they once did. As a result, engineering practice will be driven by attention not only to the familiar topics of intellectual property, project management and cost-benefit constraints, as well as multilingual influences, cultural diversity, moral/religious repercussions, global/international impacts, and national security.1

In 2000, Smerdon noted that, “Perhaps there is no single factor of greater importance in its effect on engineering education than the internationalization of engineering practice.”2 A recurring theme Smerdon recognized is that engineers will continually be adapting and learning as they encounter rapidly changing technologies throughout the world and become cognizant of societal, economic and ethical issues. International design requirements will challenge engineering students to understand other cultures and the ways their designs will affect multiple societies. If these designs are developed with cross-cultural teams, there will be the added challenge of managing various cultural dynamics.

Bland, L. (2007, June), Incorporating Global Issues Into Freshman Engineering Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1533

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