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Senior Civil Engineering Students’ Views on Sustainability and Resiliency

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Sustainability in Civil Engineering

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Noah Salzman Boise State University

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Noah Salzman is an Assistant Professor at Boise State University, where he is a member of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and IDoTeach, a pre-service STEM teacher preparation program. His work focuses on the transition from pre-college to university engineering programs, how exposure to engineering prior to matriculation affects the experiences of engineering students, and engineering in the K-12 classroom. He has worked as a high school science, mathematics, and engineering and technology teacher, as well as several years of electrical and mechanical engineering design experience as a practicing engineer. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Swarthmore College, his Master's of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts, and a Master's of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Doctorate in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Bhaskar C. S. Chittoori Boise State University

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Dr. Bhaskar Chittoori received his bachelor's degree from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Kakinada, India in 2002 and master's degree from National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal, India in 2004. He received his Ph.D. degree in 2008 from the University of Texas at Arlington. After his Ph.D. he worked at Parsons Brinckerhoff, a well renowned civil engineering design firm, in their Dallas office. Dr. Chittoori joined as Assistant Professor in Geotechnical Engineering area of the Civil Engineering Department of Boise State University in the fall of 2013.; His research interests are clay mineral quantification, sustainability assessment, advanced soil testing and interpretation, soil stabilization, soil reinforcement, pavement materials characterization along with finite element modeling of soil systems. He has published articles in ASCE Geotechnical Journal, ASTM Soil Testing Journal, Transportation Research Board Records, International Conferences on Soil Mechanic Related Topics, ASCE conferences. He is a member of ASCE sustainability committee, TRB Bridges and Foundation's committee. He is a licensed civil engineer in the state of Texas and a member of Chi Epsilon and Tau Beta Pi honor societies.

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Sondra M. Miller Boise State University

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Dr. Sondra M. Miller is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Engineering at Boise State University. Miller earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa. Her educational research interests are focused on methods to attract and retain women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

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Thomas A. Robbins

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In recent years, civil engineering education and workforce development have evolved to include a greater emphasis on sustainability and resiliency. Sustainability balances economic, ecological, and societal needs by being responsive to community impact, human health, and the environment. Resilient infrastructure lasts, retaining functional and structural capacity and supporting interconnected transportation, energy, water, and social systems after a distress event. While many undergraduate civil engineering programs address sustainability, it tends to be limited to individual courses, and resiliency concepts are rarely incorporated. To address these shortcomings, we are incorporating sustainability and resiliency conceptual threads and activities throughout our curriculum, from our first-year engineering course through senior design.

To understand the effectiveness of this initiative, at the beginning of this project we conducted interviews with senior civil engineering students to collect baseline data on our current students’ views and understanding of sustainability and responsibility. Thematic analysis of these interviews suggests that there is significant variability in students’ understanding of sustainability, with some students recognizing that sustainability involves tradeoffs between economic, environmental, and societal needs, while others tended to conflate sustainability with environmentalism. While students reported encountering sustainability in a portion of their undergraduate courses, they generally did not learn about how sustainability related to much of their technical coursework such as structures, soils, or transportation. In contrast, most current students have little conceptual understanding of resiliency which is not surprising given that it is not addressed in any substantial way in our current curriculum. This provides clear evidence of the need for greater exposure to both sustainability and resiliency and understanding the relationship between these practices as part of the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum.

By incorporating sustainability and resiliency throughout the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum, students will be better prepared to address these topics as part of their senior design projects, and in their future careers.

Salzman, N., & Chittoori, B. C. S., & Miller, S. M., & Robbins, T. A. (2018, June), Senior Civil Engineering Students’ Views on Sustainability and Resiliency Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30957

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