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Perception Vs. Reality In Civil Engineering Education Today

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.922.1 - 8.922.17

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Paper Authors

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Ashraf Ghaly

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

Session 2793

Perception Versus Reality in Civil Engineering Education Today

Ashraf M. Ghaly, Thomas K. Jewell, Professor, F. Andrew Wolfe

Civil Engineering Department Union College, Schenectady, NY 12308

Abstract The discipline of civil engineering, and how to best teach it to aspiring engineers, has been the subject of many discussions and debates for the past few years. Between perception and reality one can find groups with opinions that vary across the spectrum. To some, the traditional field of civil engineering is considered to be one of the most important fields in engineering because it is closely attached to the needs of humans in their daily lives. To others, it is an old fashioned discipline that does not belong in a modern engineering curriculum. Colleges, universities, and educational institutions have debated the question of how to modify the civil engineering curriculum in ways that will increase its appeal to students. Some of these institutions went as far as debating the viability of existing civil engineering programs. Many of the factors that affect the direction of civil engineering education are directly related to environmental, economical, political, social, and cultural issues. Civil engineering is a discipline that mirrors the societal conditions of a community and addresses these conditions in a scientific and technical way in the classroom. Many educational institutions have come to the realization that advancements in technology should be reflected in newly structured civil engineering courses, and introduced changes in their offerings. This paper attempts to offer a global view of steps implemented by large and small institutions to modernize their engineering curricula. Changes made by institutions will be classified as light, moderate, or dramatic. The self-assessed degree of success of these changes, and the level of acceptance these newly revamped programs received will be discussed.

I. Perception and Reality

The period of the mid to late nineties showed astronomical growth in some sectors of the economy. A close look at the areas that experienced this growth would reveal that it was almost entirely confined to Internet-related stocks and bioengineering stocks that stood to benefit from the mapping of the human genome. This apparently led to a feeling on the part of some engineering educators that if they do not shift the focus of their programs to benefit from the so- called “new economy,” they would be left behind. Many called for dramatic changes, and saw no light in the end of the tunnel unless these changes were implemented. Others proclaimed that conventional fields such as civil engineering were dead and it was time to ride the new wave. This

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Ghaly, A. (2003, June), Perception Vs. Reality In Civil Engineering Education Today Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.

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