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Starting An Integrated Humanities/Social Science Program For An Engineering Curriculum: Curriculum And Course Design

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.508.1 - 3.508.3

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Paper Authors

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Melvin Cherno

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

Session 3661

STARTING AN INTEGRATED HUMANITIES/SOCIAL SCIENCE PROGRAM FOR AN ENGINEERING CURRICULUM: CURRICULUM AND COURSE DESIGN Melvin Cherno Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication School of Engineering and Applied Science University of Virginia

Anyone interested in establishing a cross-disciplinary program that integrates the humanities and social sciences into an undergraduate engineering curriculum will have to make at least four major decisions. This paper offers some advice based on the experiences of the Division of Technology, Culture, and Communication at the University of Virginia.


The new criteria for accrediting programs in engineering in the United States, announced as "Engineering Criteria 2000" by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, demand that graduates have a wide range of abilities and understandings, about half of which are based on knowledge transmitted by the humanities and social sciences; among these are "an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility," "an ability to communicate effectively," "the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context," and "a knowledge of contemporary issues." To meet the new ABET requirements, the new program will have to integrate engineering/technology with humanities/social science expertise and not merely expect engineering students to take--in a vacuum--a number of humanities and social science courses.

The TCC Division has for two generations established courses that serve this integrative purpose. Our courses are in three tiers, in all of which communications skills are wedded to learning about the connections between engineering and broader culture. TCC 101, a course taken in the student's very first semester in the Engineering School, combines instruction in written and oral communication with an introduction to the role engineers play within the university and within modern society. A TCC 200-level course is taken in the student's fourth semester; the student may choose from among over a dozen courses, all of which continue to stress oral and written communication but also relate engineering and technology to the broader society, one way or another, and serve additionally to introduce the student to the professional ways of thinking of practitioners of the humanities and social sciences. TCC 401 and 402, taught in the senior year, concentrate heavily on the role engineering and technology have played in western society, now and in the past; both are suffused with consideration of the subject of professional engineering ethics, allowing the student to put into perspective not only the ethical bases of his future career but also his responsibilities as a student and researcher. The latter role is important, because imbedded in 401/402, as a superintegrative experience, is the required undergraduate thesis, a research effort managed by the student in conjunction with a TCC and a technical adviser that places the engineering research in a context of professional responsibility.

Cherno, M. (1998, June), Starting An Integrated Humanities/Social Science Program For An Engineering Curriculum: Curriculum And Course Design Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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