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Is Service an Expected Part of the Engineering Profession?

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.978.1 - 22.978.19



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Paper Authors


John J. Duffy University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Professor and Faculty Coordinator of Service-Learning

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Linda Barrington University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Engineering Service-Learning Coordinator

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Manuel A Heredia University of Massachusetts, Lowell

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Is Service an Expected Part of the Engineering Profession?Should community service be an expected part of the engineering profession? A certain amountof “pro bono” work appears to be expected in the legal and medical professions. For example,the recent hearings on the appointment of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court brought to light herapproval of requiring service of all the students in the Harvard Law School while she was dean.And if service is part of the engineering profession, should it become part of the education ofengineering students? How? Should it be integrated into technical courses, as in service-learning, or should it be left to extra curricular activities?Student opinions were sampled recently. Courses with service-learning projects have beenintegrated into existing required courses in engineering over the past six years in fivedepartments of a state university. Last academic year S-L projects were completed in courses(ranging from 7% to 100% of the grade) by1150 students. Entering students have been sampledevery fall with a pre survey, and then all students are surveyed “post” at the end of the springsemester. Some students have placed their ID numbers on the surveys so that their surveys canbe tracked over time and responses compared. For example, in the September 2010 pre surveywith 469 responses (out of 487 students in the introduction to engineering class), the response tothe statement, “Service in general should be an expected part of the engineering profession” wasthat 75% agreed, 8% disagreed, and the rest were neutral. The mean was 6.57 on a Likert scaleof 1 to 9 (strongly disagree to strongly agree). In post surveys last spring in response to thestatement on the same Likert scale of 1 to 9 with 471 responses across all years, the meanresponse was 6.72. Interestingly, the mean response of females (n=64) was 7.69 (significantlydifferent from males of 6.57, at 5%, t-test). Also, a consistent trend in more positive responseswas noted from first year to senior year students. Similar results were obtained in response to thestatement that service and academic course work should be integrated. Interviews of studentsand faculty also showed positive attitudes toward integrating service-learning into existing corecourses.The evidence from this case study supports the principle that service should be considered part ofthe engineering profession. Integrating service-learning within existing technical courses is aconcrete way of training students in how and why engineers perform such professionalcommunity service.

Duffy, J. J., & Barrington, L., & Heredia, M. A. (2011, June), Is Service an Expected Part of the Engineering Profession? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18211

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