Asee peer logo

Liberal Education For The Engineer Of 2020: Are Administrators On Board?

Download Paper |


2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Liberal Education for 21st Century Engineering

Tagged Division

Liberal Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.844.1 - 15.844.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Betty Harper Pennsylvania State University

author page

Lisa Lattuca Pennsylvania State University

author page

Alexander Yin Penn State University

author page

Patrick Terenzini Pennsylvania State University

Download Paper |

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

Liberal Education for the Engineer of 2020: Are Administrators On-Board?


Engineering educators are being pressed to prepare students for the challenges of a dynamic, global workplace and society. The National Academy’s reports, The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century1 and Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century2, provide guidance to the engineering education community as it seeks to meet these challenges. The Engineer of 2020, in particular, identifies the attributes and skills that engineers will need if the U.S. is to maintain its economic and engineering leadership in a rapidly changing technological and globalized environment. The report portrays engineering education of the future as a liberal education, stressing interdisciplinarity, communication, leadership, and understanding the multiple, interconnected contexts in which engineering exists. This paper presents data from one component of a larger, national study that examines the extent to which undergraduate engineering programs are on-board with the NAE’s vision and are providing educational experiences consistent with the report’s goals.

Data come from a survey of engineering administrators and focus in particular on their responses to questions about the role of liberal education in the preparation of engineers. The study’s institutional sample was drawn from the population of four-year engineering schools offering two or more of the following ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering programs: biomedical/bio-engineering, chemical, civil, electrical, industrial, or mechanical. A 6x3x2 disproportionate stratified random sample was drawn using the following strata: six discipline levels, three levels of highest degree offered (bachelor's, master's, or doctorate), and two levels of type of control (public or private). The sample includes 32 U.S. colleges/schools of engineering. Thirty associate deans (94%) and 84 program chairs (67%) responded.

Analyses indicate the majority of respondents are familiar with the goals of The Engineer of 2020. Administrators tended to agree with statements such as “humanities and social science courses are very important in preparing engineers” and that the undergraduate engineering curriculum should “prepare students to assume community leadership roles.” Although there were some small differences, analyses, generally did not support the hypotheses that respondents’ levels of agreement with the NAE’s vision would vary with institutional mission (bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral) and/or size. Similarly, administrators’ views on liberal learning were not linked to the amount of their industry experience.


In recent years, external and internal forces have pushed engineering educators to reshape their programs’ curricula to prepare students more effectively to meet the challenges of a dynamic, global workplace and society. Numerous reports describing this need have emerged from such bodies as the National Academy of Engineering, the National Science Foundation, and other federal agencies; engineering industry organizations; and professional societies. While the focus of each report varies, they have certain themes in common. All argue that to meet the needs of the future and to maintain America’s economic and technological dominance on the world stage,

Harper, B., & Lattuca, L., & Yin, A., & Terenzini, P. (2010, June), Liberal Education For The Engineer Of 2020: Are Administrators On Board? Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16467

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: © 2010 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