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Integrating Sustainability Within Ethics Discourse: A Freshman Perspective

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Paper Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.772.1 - 9.772.7

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Paper Authors

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Seetha Veeraghanta

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Janice Frost

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

Integrating Sustainability Within Ethics Discourse: A Freshmen Perspective

Seetha V. Veeraghanta, Janice W. Frost University of Utah, Undergraduate Studies Program

Abstract Recently, engineering academia has recognized the importance of including ethics and the concept of sustainability into the curriculum. This development is evidenced in the ABET guidelines, viz., “…engineering standards and realistic constraints - economic, environmental, sustainability, ethical, health and safety, social and economic” [1]. In this paper, we present the argument that incorporating theories and concepts of global resource sustainability into a discussion of ethics enables a first-year student to comprehend ethics as an engineering goal. In addition, we argue that this incorporation at the first-year level ensures that the students continue to engage in the discourse of ethics throughout their engineering education. We draw our inferences based on our five years of teaching “UGS 1101 - Ethics in Engineering” to freshmen engineering students in University of Utah. In this course, the students examine how the world of social sciences studies human institutions, cultures, and behaviors, and, in particular, apply the concepts to engineering ethics and decision-making processes. This course prepares students to recognize ethical issues within engineering contexts with the help of case studies drawn from national and international contexts. To understand the impact of engineering solutions in global and societal contexts, we introduce the concepts of local and global sustainability. We examine the notion of sustainable development from the practicing engineer’s perspective. This encompasses a discussion of ethical implications of issues such as globalization and the rapid growth of information technology.

In the course, an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility is drawn from the exploration of the scope and definition of “ethics” and “ethical responsibilities” via discussions focused on the code of ethics statements from discipline specific professional (both national and international) organizations and societies. Case study analyses of engineering failures help integrate concepts of risk analysis into the discussion of ethics and professional responsibilities, especially as they relate to public health, safety and whistle blowing. Such an integration allows students to realize that ethics form the core of the engineering profession. The students explore their discipline specific discourse on sustainability and ultimately present their findings as a culmination of the semester-long learning. Introduction The pedagogical framework of engineering ethics education has predominantly used case studies examined through the application of codes of ethics drawn from professional engineering societies or through moral theories. We believe that these tools represent one way to teach ethics to first- year engineering students. However, based on our five years of teaching about 250 freshmen

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Veeraghanta, S., & Frost, J. (2004, June), Integrating Sustainability Within Ethics Discourse: A Freshman Perspective Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2004 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015