Asee peer logo

Introducing an Engineering Program in an Emphatically Liberal Arts Institution

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Programmatic Integration of Liberal Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Michael Oudshoorn High Point University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Prof. Michael Oudshoorn is the founding Dean of Engineering and Computer Science at High Point University, North Carolina. His research interests include computer science education, programming languages, parallel and distributed systems, and autonomic systems. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Adelaide, Australia.

visit author page


Claire Lynne McCullough P.E. High Point University

visit author page

Dr. McCullough received her bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Vanderbilt, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee, respectively, and is a registered professional engineer in the state of Alabama. She is a member of I.E.E.E., Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, and Eta Kappa Nu. She is currently Professor and Founding Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the High Point University, and teaches courses in such areas as Engineering Ethics, Controls, and Engineering Design. Dr. McCullough has over 30 years' experience in engineering practice and education, including industrial experience at the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Her research interests include Image and Data Fusion, Automatic Target Recognition, and Bioinformatics. She is a former member of the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission, and is on the board of the Women in Engineering Division of ASEE.

visit author page

Download Paper |


The introduction of an engineering program into an institution with a proud, strong, liberal arts history is likely to face some challenges. This paper explores the journey of introducing engineering into an institution that has a 96-year history as a liberal arts institution and which only introduced its first professional degrees in the past six years. Each of these professional degrees, including programs for pharmacists, physical therapists, and physician's assistants, is governed by strict accreditation requirements and different accrediting bodies, complicating the challenge to accommodate the accreditation requirements, retain the mission of the liberal arts education, and manage the sometimes conflicting or opposing constraints that each places on the degree program.

XXX University is a private, liberal arts institution in XXX. Over its 96-year history the institution has demonstrated a blend of respect for tradition, with nimbleness and a willingness to evolve. That evolution has included a firm commitment to the liberal arts, and a choice to brand itself as "COPYRIGHTED PHRASE REMOVED FOR ANONYMITY" where "COPYRIGHTED PHRASE" is understood by those at the university to mean liberal arts. However, the evolution has also included the introduction of professional programs, and a strengthening of the natural sciences and mathematics. Engineering is the latest program to be introduced and it presents the greatest challenge in terms of harmoniously blending with the liberal arts general education core, as programs such as pharmacy are graduate programs which do not include the same strong liberal arts focus. While there is a debate among some engineers as to whether hours spent on liberal arts could be better spent in more detailed technical courses, the faculty in the XXXX School of Engineering all believe that a strong technical engineering degree is extremely well complemented and strengthened by the liberal arts foundation at XXXX University, particularly the emphases on oral and written communication, ethics, research methods, and entrepreneurship. Thus, it is not the co-existence of liberal arts and engineering that is the challenge, but rather the size of the liberal arts core at XXXX University. When the university decided some years ago to change the length of the typical course from three semester hours to four, the number of courses in the core did not change, effectively increasing the size of the core by one third. With the current ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission requirements of a minimum of 30 semester hours of science and mathematics, and 45 hours of engineering topics appropriate to the name of the program, this is problematic. Also difficult is mapping an engineering curriculum to exclusively four-hour courses, as most traditional courses and texts are built to be taught in three hour blocks, forcing some creative combination of courses.

The entire curricula for both electrical and computer engineering have been approved, and the programs accepted their first freshmen in fall 2019. This paper discusses the implementation of the programs, the challenges already addressed and those yet to be resolved, as well as what we perceive to be the benefits of engineering in an usually strong liberal arts setting.

Oudshoorn, M., & McCullough, C. L. (2020, June), Introducing an Engineering Program in an Emphatically Liberal Arts Institution Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34872

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: © 2020 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