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Sustainability Incorporation in Courses in Mechanical, Civil and Environmental Engineering: Insights from AASHE STARS Data

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computation Related

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Joan Kathryn Tisdale University of Colorado Boulder

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Joan Tisdale holds degrees in both Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering from Auburn University and MIT, respectively, and is pursuing a PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked in renewable energy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and has taught STEM related courses both at the high school and college levels.

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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) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. 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 students learned 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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Sustainability incorporation into engineering education is gaining in recognition and importance. Sustainability courses provide valuable connections in the notions of sustainability and they build knowledge about sustainability. Integrating sustainability concepts throughout the curriculum gives the students a broad understanding of the field and prepares students to apply sustainability principles in their engineering decisions.

This work seeks to answer the question: ‘To what extent is sustainability integration occurring in education in civil/environmental engineering and in mechanical engineering?’ The Sustainability Tracking And Reporting System (STARS) by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) provides a source of data to probe this question. Institutions report information about sustainability incorporation into their courses to the AASHE STARS system, which provides useful knowledge of existing courses and methods of sustainability integration in the curricula. Data representing 30 universities was included in this study and shows there is approximately 4.25 times the number of courses with sustainability incorporation in civil and environmental engineering compared to mechanical engineering. An overlay of the data and course structure between the two departments yields interesting observations and areas for potential leveraging of advancements within the two disciplines.

Tisdale, J. K., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2021, July), Sustainability Incorporation in Courses in Mechanical, Civil and Environmental Engineering: Insights from AASHE STARS Data Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37791

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