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Social Responsibility in Engineering Education and Practice: Alignments, Mismatches, and Future Directions

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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

Ethical Awareness and Social Responsibility in a Corporate/Team Context

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Jessica Mary Smith Colorado School of Mines

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Jessica M. Smith is Co-Director of Humanitarian Engineering and Assistant Professor at the Colorado School of Mines. As an anthropologist, her research interests focus around the mining and energy industries, with particular emphasis in corporate social responsibility, engineers, labor and gender. She is the author of Mining Coal and Undermining Gender: Rhythms of Work and Family in the American West, which was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation. She is currently investigating the intersections between engineering and CSR on the NSF grant “The Ethics of Extraction: Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into Engineering Education.”

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Juan C. Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Juan Lucena is Professor and Director of Humanitarian Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). Juan obtained a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech and a MS in STS and BS in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). His books include Defending the Nation: U.S. Policymaking to Create Scientists and Engineers from Sputnik to the ‘War Against Terrorism’ (University Press of America, 2005), Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan &Claypool, 2010), Engineering Education for Social Justice: Critical Explorations and Opportunities (Springer, 2013), and Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (IEEE-Wiley, 2018)

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This paper explores the mismatch between engineering education and engineering practice as it relates to social responsibility (SR) and offers preliminary recommendations for closing it. First, we trace the emergence of the concept of “social responsibility” in both engineering education and practice, showing the stabilization of the idea that SR could be handled by ethics education in the curriculum and codes of conduct in the profession. We then survey current engineering education initiatives—in and out of engineering ethics—to show where and how different forms of SR are being taught. Comparing these with samples of engineers’ current SR practices reveals a mismatch between education and practice in SR. We conclude by proposing educational innovations to close the gap and train engineers to become professionals responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, operation and decommissioning of socio-technical systems with competing responsibilities towards employers, affected communities, workers, government agencies, users and other stakeholders.

Smith, J. M., & Lucena, J. C. (2018, June), Social Responsibility in Engineering Education and Practice: Alignments, Mismatches, and Future Directions Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30973

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