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Social Responsibility Related to Global Experiences and Interests of U.S. Engineering Students

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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

International Division Technical Session 2

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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 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 if and how global interests and experiences relate to engineering students’ ideas of professional social responsibility. The mixed-methods study included quantitative information from about 3300 students who completed online surveys and qualitative information from both open-ended questions on the surveys and longitudinal interviews with a small group of engineering students and alumni. The interviews and surveys revealed that different types of global issues were impactful in developing social responsibility ideas before college for some students, including service projects in global settings, international travel more generally, and awareness of global poverty and development issues from the news and media. During college, social responsibility ideas were shaped by courses with international content (inside and outside of engineering), international service-related groups (e.g. Engineers Without Borders), study abroad, and work experiences. There was a weak negative correlation between students’ average social responsibility attitude overall and their level of interest in living domestically; and a weak positive correlation between their professional connectedness and interest in living internationally in a developing country. The strength of these correlations varied by student gender, rank, and major. The results suggest that these correlations might result from causation in either direction: individuals may develop stronger attitudes toward socially responsible engineering as a result of global experiences before and during college, and/or those with a stronger sense of social responsibility may seek out international experiences during or after college. However, the quality of the experiences can be variable and may impact students in different ways. As a result of these experiences, interest in working abroad changed during their undergraduate engineering education for some students. The results suggest that initiatives to globalize or internationalize college experiences may help to combat the “culture of disengagement” in relation to engineering students’ commitment to socially responsible engineering.

Bielefeldt, A. R., & Rulifson, G., & Canney, N. E. (2019, June), Social Responsibility Related to Global Experiences and Interests of U.S. Engineering Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33274

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