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Listening to Community Voices as Part of Ethical Civil Engineering: Experiences in Civil Engineering Courses

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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

Making Professionals: Methods to Build Success Skills

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE). She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where interdisciplinary students learn about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt currently serves as the Director for the Engineering Plus program at the University of Colorado. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Listening enables engineers to genuinely engage with communities impacted by infrastructure projects. Thus, listening should be an important element in educating inclusive civil engineers in alignment with the social pillar of sustainable design. However, classes rarely give students the opportunity to interact with communities to develop these listening skills. A small ethical listening exercise was integrated into three civil engineering courses in fall 2019. Videos with stories from community members impacted by engineering were shown during class. The panel Community Engagement Ethics – First Steps in a Conversation with Affected Communities that was held at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference in 2019 served as the main source of community voices. In a first-year Introduction to Civil Engineering course, discussion of the human-centered design process was supported by comments from Lena Young-Green in regards to the Tampa Bay Interstate Express project and elements of equitable transportation. Her narrative provided concrete examples of elements from the ASCE Code of Ethics Canon 1 and Canon 8. Students’ written comments provided evidence of effectiveness and impact. In a senior professional issues course, shorter clips from multiple members of the ASEE community panel were shown during class as part of both the ethics module and sustainability module. However, it was unclear that the seniors gained any insights or abilities from these activities. In an elective/graduate level course focused on site remediation, clips from Sydney Brown discussing Tonawanda Coke and from a community meeting discussing a proposed remedy at a Superfund site were presented and discussed. This integration seemed moderately successful based on end-of-semester survey ratings. Practicing listening skills in multiple locations in the curriculum is likely to be the most successful in fostering civil engineering students’ attitudes about the importance of listening to communities. This paper fits with the theme “Inclusive Engineers: Strategies for Teaching Principles of Equity and Inclusion in Engineering Curricula.”

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2020, June), Listening to Community Voices as Part of Ethical Civil Engineering: Experiences in Civil Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34930

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