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Military-Bound and Veteran Student Views on Socially Responsible Engineering

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Military and Veterans Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Military and Veterans

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt 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 is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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Greg Rulifson P.E. Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Greg currently teaches in Humanitarian Engineering at CSM. Greg earned his bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice from UC Berkeley where he acquired a passion for using engineering to facilitate developing communities’ capacity for success. He earned his master's degree in Structural Engineering and Risk Analysis from Stanford University. His PhD work at CU Boulder focused on how student's connections of social responsibility and engineering change throughout college as well as how engineering service is valued in employment and supported in the workplace.

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Nathan E. Canney CYS Structural Engineers Inc.

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Dr. Canney conducts research focused on engineering education, specifically the development of social responsibility in engineering students. Other areas of interest include ethics, service learning, and sustainability education. Dr. Canney received bachelors degrees in Civil Engineering and Mathematics from Seattle University, a masters in Civil Engineering from Stanford University with an emphasis on structural engineering, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.

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This research explored the perspectives of engineering students on the relationship between service in the military and views of social responsibility as engineers, in particular professional connectedness or the obligation that an engineer has to help solve social problems or help others using their professional skills. Three research questions (RQs) were examined: (1) How does the professional connectedness of engineering students attending a military academy compare to students at other institutions? (2) How do engineering students with military aspirations view social responsibilities related to the engineering profession and perceive negative feelings from their peers related to the ethics of military service? (3) How do engineering students with a history of military service view social responsibilities related to the engineering profession and perceive negative feelings from others related to the ethics of military service? The first RQ was examined using the results from two large surveys of engineering students attending 17 institutions with about 3300 respondents, including 222 students attending one of the U.S. military academies. The professional connectedness element of social responsibility was measured using 19 Likert-type items with a 7-point response scale. It was found that the average professional connectedness of male engineering students attending a military academy was higher than male engineering students attending other types of institutions. With respect to RQ2, interviews were conducted with two students participating in ROTC and one who conducted research on drones. These students described their social responsibilities related to military issues as including using engineering to protect troops and the public, the role of the military in taking down oppressive governments, and the military role in responding to disasters. To explore RQ3, open ended questions on the survey allowed students to describe events or courses that influenced their views of social responsibility and/or to define their ideas of social responsibility, and one alumnus who was a veteran also shared his story during an interview. These veterans saw military service as a strong reflection of social responsibility and a sacrifice to the greater good. Some veterans pushed back on the notion of social responsibility as an obligation in general. One student veteran shared a story of being disparaged for his military association. The results help engineering faculty understand the perspectives of students with military backgrounds and/or aspirations. Faculty should consider these perspectives in their teaching, particularly when facilitating discussions and debates around ethics and societal impacts in their courses.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Rulifson, G., & Canney, N. E. (2019, June), Military-Bound and Veteran Student Views on Socially Responsible Engineering Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33109

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