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Student Perspectives for New Civil Engineering Majors

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Viewpoints, Perspectives, and Creativity in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Kevin Chang P.E. University of Idaho - Moscow

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Kevin Chang, Ph.D., P.E., is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Idaho, where he is focusing on traffic operations and safety, transportation security, and engineering education.

Kevin is the current Chair of the ITE Transportation Education Council, Chair of the TRB School Transportation Subcommittee, member of the TRB Safety Management Committee, and Past President for the Washington State Section of ITE. He is registered as a Professional Engineer in Washington and California, and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Washington.

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This research examines how today’s incoming civil engineering student must prepare for his or her college career. Student perspectives from the bookends of the academic experience – from current freshmen to seniors – are uniquely gathered and disseminated, and their personal experiences are closely examined. The use and impact of technology and the role that it plays is also studied. The guidance and insights shared and developed by the students may be used to: guide curriculum development at the freshman level, formalize advising strategies, provide outreach to current high school students, and support department-level activities.

The incoming college student is required to declare his or her major prior to enrolling for classes as a freshman at some institutions. In addition to taking first-year coursework that typically consists of mathematics, chemistry, english, and selected elective courses, an introductory civil engineering course may also be required. The week-to-week curriculum of this class is usually at the discretion of the individual instructor, but the overall content should expose the student to: basic civil engineering problem solving skills; further development of software use, graphical analysis, and data analysis skills; and enhancement of oral and written communication abilities.

The freshman civil engineering major, already adjusting to the trials and tribulations of a college student, may also be faced with uncertainty with regard to his or her academic goals. For the incoming freshman, these issues may occur at two distinct levels. First, there may be uncertainty as to whether or not civil engineering is simply the right branch of engineering, as opposed to, for example, mechanical or construction engineering. Second, if the student is settled on civil engineering, developing a plan that streamlines their coursework to target one of the many sub-disciplines within civil engineering which include, but are not limited to: structural, transportation, environmental, surveying, geotechnical, and hydraulics will require some thoughtful short-term and long-term planning.

Chang, K. (2016, June), Student Perspectives for New Civil Engineering Majors Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25916

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