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Service-Motivated Students’ Transitions To Industry

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Cooperative & Experiential Education Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1368.1 - 26.1368.10



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Paper Authors


Greg Rulifson P.E. University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16

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Greg Rulifson is a Civil Engineering doctoral candidate focused on qualitative engineering education research while also completing the Engineering in Developing Communities certificate. 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 upcoming dissertation will focus 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 PE Seattle University

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Dr. Canney teaches civil engineering at Seattle University. His research focuses 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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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 serves as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt is 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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Service-Motivated Students’ Transitions To IndustryWith a growing emphasis on the need to develop more holistic engineers, many engineeringeducators are turning to service-based educational pedagogies to help students gain broaderperspectives of their roles as engineers in society. The explosive growth of Engineers WithoutBorders (EWB) and the rise of programs such as Purdue’s Engineering Project in CommunityService (EPICS) and Michigan Tech’s D80 program exemplify how both students andinstitutions highly value such activities. Research into the effects of these activities has shownthat students gain a greater understanding of their civic and social responsibility, awareness ofthe world, and increased academic, personal and professional advancement. Concurrently,corporate social responsibility (CSR) continues to be adopted broadly as a major step forward incompanies’ interaction with and effect on the environments in which they operate. Thereremains, however, significant uncertainty about what happens when these students leave schooland enter the engineering profession, and to what degree they are able and willing to participatein engineering service and personally contribute to a firm’s CSR efforts.A description of engineering service opportunities and value in the workplace will be presentedthrough exploratory interview data with 12 engineering company employees who are engaged insome way with engineering service supported to varying degrees by their companies. Theengineering firms range from environmental engineering consulting to large construction toaerospace industry. Interviews lasted thirty to sixty minutes using a semi-structuredapproach. Related results from interviews with 15 alumni who were active in engineeringservice programs as students will also be presented, including examples from individuals wholeft engineering. Additionally, the ways in which engineering companies portray these activitiesthrough various social media were explored and broadly compared to the responses of theemployees as to the realities in their jobs.Engineering employees at these firms have a wide range of experiences in the ways and meansthrough which their service aspirations are supported. Some firms offer an extra week of paidtime off for engineering service-related travel while others employees only receive informalaccolades and invitations to give lunchtime presentations. Employees described the ways theywere able to present the value of engineering service activities to decision makers in their firms(high-level engineers to marketing managers) in order to be supported. The 12 employeeinterviews paint a complex though encouraging picture of the status of engineering service in theworkplace, though success does seem to depend very much on messaging and the prioritizationof stakeholders for engineering projects. Alumni from engineering service programs hadselected a variety of career paths, ranging from traditional engineering work with continuedparticipation in engineering service on a volunteer basis to complete immersion through workingat an NGO. Others had moved in directions away from engineering service, and still others hadleft engineering due in part to the perceived disconnect with societal benefits.This paper will give insight to the mysterious working world, and provide recommendations foreasing the education-industry transition for the growing number of qualified service-motivatedengineering graduates.

Rulifson, G., & Canney, N. E., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2015, June), Service-Motivated Students’ Transitions To Industry Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24705

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