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MELP, an innovative Master of Engineering degree bridging Engineering, Law, and Policy

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session

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Paper Authors


Sandra Allain Pennsylvania State University

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Professor of Practice in the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) in the College of Engineering at Penn State, affiliate School of International Affairs, Lecturer in Law at Penn State Law, affiliate Sustainability Institute. Inaugural Director of the Law, Policy, and Engineering initiative - LPE, the M.Eng. in Engineering, Law, and Policy (MELP) and the Design, Justice, & Sustainable Development Lab - DJSD. Over 15 years experience as a practicing attorney in intellectual property and technology transfer in both private practice and as in-house counsel, including in the Office of University Counsel at the University of Illinois. Passionate about education, access to justice, equity, diversity, innovation, and social justice. LL.B. Law Degree Universidad del Rosario, Colombia; M.Ed. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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The National Academy of Engineering 2004 report -The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century- stated “The engineering profession needs to adopt a new vision for its future to ensure that engineers are broadly educated, become leaders in the public and private sectors, and represent all segments of society. Future engineers must be able to acquire new knowledge quickly, be adaptable and engage emerging problems, and also be capable of informing public policy”…. With the appropriate education and training, the engineer of the future will be called upon to become a leader not only in business but also in nonprofit and government sectors, the report says. Future engineers must recognize the importance of public service and help set the nation's policy agenda. Also, since engineers are increasingly involved in international collaborations, they need to appreciate other cultures and their evolving roles in the global economy, the report notes.”

Recognizing this need is still relevant today 18 years later, and that engineers require interdisciplinary skills to succeed in today's digitalized global workforce, the Master of Engineering degree in Engineering, Law, and Policy (MELP) was created at Pennsylvania State University. It is a one-year full time residential non-thesis master’s degree that provides training for advanced professional practice. The MELP program aims to provide students with a competitive advantage when seeking employment at the nexus of science and technology policy, policy analysis, complex systems design, and regulatory compliance. This program also offers experienced scientists, engineers, managers, as well as government and industry employers the student pipeline skilled and versed in technology ethics, the regulatory and policy frameworks of emerging technologies, and emerging technology trends for business growth and societal impact.

Through the application of engineering systems principles and using systems design as a framework, students in the MELP program will acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for the understanding of policy and law as a system and how law, policy, and engineering converge to further the field of public interest technology.

The MELP graduate program is housed in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs (SEDTAPP) in the College of Engineering and is the first academic offering of the Law, Policy and Engineering (LPE) initiative at Penn State. This is a collaborative effort of the College of Engineering, the School of International Affairs, and Penn State Law at University Park. The core curriculum comprises 21 credits, a combination of new and existing courses, and 9 credits of electives that can be chosen from 9 technical focus areas or general electives. A full description of the curriculum design is provided in the paper.

Allain, S. (2022, August), MELP, an innovative Master of Engineering degree bridging Engineering, Law, and Policy Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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