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Sustainable, Global, Interdisciplinary, and Concerned for Others? Trends in Environmental Engineering Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Sustainability and Hands-on Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1449.1 - 26.1449.19



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Paper Authors


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 serves as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt is 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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Global, Sustainable, Interdisciplinary and Concerned for Others? Trends in Environmental Engineering StudentsThe Environmental Engineering Body of Knowledge (BOK) discusses the skills and attributesrequired for environmental engineers to be successful and productive professional engineers whoare best equipped to benefit society. Globalization and sustainability are specified as outcomes,and interdisciplinary interactions are also discussed. The BOK focuses on the cognitive domain.However, affect is important in determining how cognitive knowledge and skills are applied.The ASCE’s Civil Engineering BOK (2008) discusses the affective domain and has an attitudesoutcome that includes consideration of others. In this study the four affective attributes of globalinterest, sustainability value, interdisciplinary value, and concern for others were exploredamong engineering students. The research questions were: (1) to what extent do incomingenvironmental engineering students possess an interest in global work, value interdisciplinaryskills, are motivated by sustainable engineering, and recognize the importance of considerationfor others in the context of engineering; (2) to what extent are environmental engineeringstudents similar to or different from civil and architectural engineering students in theseattitudes; and (3) are there correlations between these attitudes.To answer these research questions, a survey was given to incoming first year students at theUniversity of Colorado Boulder in fall 2014. The survey was comprised of 41 questions on a 7-point Likert scale. Single items were used to measure global interests and interdisciplinary value,while sustainable engineering motivation was evaluated using 25 items (from a previouslyvalidated instrument) and consideration for others was evaluated using 14 items (from among the50 items on the previously developed Engineering Professional Responsibility Assessment,EPRA).Among the 70 environmental engineering students, interest in working on projects outside theU.S. averaged 6.1, not significantly different than 50 first year civil engineering and 37 first yeararchitectural engineering students. Interdisciplinary value averaged 5.4, higher than architecturalengineering students (average 4.8). There was a weak positive correlation between global interestand interdisciplinary value, with correlation coefficients of 0.16 and 0.20 among environmentaland civil engineering students, respectively. Four dimensions of sustainable engineeringmotivation were evaluated (self-efficacy, value, negative attitudes (reverse coded), and affect),with environmental engineering students having an overall sustainable engineering motivationscore of 5.7. With the exception of self-efficacy, environmental engineering students had higherscores than civil and architectural engineering majors on the other three sustainable engineeringattitudes. Concern for others was measured by questions from the analyze and professionalconnectedness dimensions of the EPRA instrument; environmental engineering students hadaverage scores for these dimensions of 6.0 and 5.7, respectively, which were more positive thanarchitectural engineering students and similar to civil engineering students. Correlations betweenthe concern for others as engineers and sustainable engineering value were moderately positive(0.60 correlation coefficient). These results will be discussed in the broader context ofcomparisons to previous data from first year environmental engineering students on sustainableengineering motivation in fall 2010 and international work interest and social responsibility infall 2011. The data will also be discussed in terms of attracting a broader diversity of individualsto engineering, and retaining these individuals into the engineering workforce.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2015, June), Sustainable, Global, Interdisciplinary, and Concerned for Others? Trends in Environmental Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24786

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