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Theory And Practice Of Humanitarian Ethics In Graduate Engineering Education

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering and Sustainability

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1488.1 - 12.1488.18



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Paper Authors

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Juan Lucena Colorado School of Mines

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Carl Mitcham Colorado School of Mines

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Jon Leydens Colorado School of Mines

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Junko Munakata-Marr Colorado School of Mines

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Jay Straker Colorado School of Mines

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Marcelo Simoes Colorado School of Mines

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

Theory and Practice of Humanitarian Ethics in Graduate Engineering Education


The engineering education ethics focus on individual and social responsibilities has overlooked an important dimension of engineering practice that deserves clearer ethical articulation and curriculum development: the role of engineers in humanitarian activities. Additionally, reform initiatives in science and engineering (S&E) graduate education have yet to realize their potential for integrating ethics into curricula. Addressing such challenges, this paper will describe activities to date of an interdisciplinary faculty team at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) working on the development of graduate-level curriculum in humanitarian engineering ethics (HEE). The HEE faculty team has 1) reviewed and critically assessed relations between humanitarianism and engineering in order to develop an applicable concept of humanitarian ethics (HE) in engineering education and practice; 2) researched barriers and opportunities in the development and implementation of humanitarian-related curricula in a number of engineering schools; and 3) undertaken the development and implementation of HE initiatives in graduate engineering education. The paper outlines the literature review and philosophical analysis conducted in different areas related to humanitarianism, how these activities were incorporated in a faculty development workshop, and how they are being used in curriculum development and implementation of a Humanitarian Engineering Ethics Introductory Seminar and electrical and environmental engineering courses.


Humanitarianism and engineering

As has been previously outlined by Mitcham, Lucena, and Moon [1], the social philosophy of humanitarianism developed during the same time frame as professional engineering, and was first applied to organizations such as the International Red Cross/Crescent, founded in 1864. From its beginnings, humanitarianism was allied with an ethical vision for the use of science and technology (initially in the form of medicine) for the benefit of all human beings irrespective of nationality, race, or other restrictive grouping.

In 1971, however, humanitarianism took a new turn with the formation of “Médecins sans Frontieres” (MSF or Doctors without Borders). Having now become the largest non- governmental humanitarian relief agency in the world, MSF grew out of dissatisfaction with the inability of the Red Cross/Crescent to act independently of national government controls and to venture beyond safe boundaries. The idealistic physicians of MSF pioneered new ways of bringing medical science and technology to people in crisis and of speaking up for human rights [2] . Stimulated by similar ideals, in the early 1990s engineers took up the challenge and independently organized a number of groups going under some form of the name “Engineers without Borders”: Ingénieurs Sans Frontieres (France) – Ingénieurs Assistance Internationale (Belgium), Ingeniería Sin Fronteras (Spain), Ingenierer unden Graenser (Denmark), Ingenjörer och Naturvetare utan Gräser-Sverige (Sweden), Ingegnería Senza Frontiere (Italy), and others.

Lucena, J., & Mitcham, C., & Leydens, J., & Munakata-Marr, J., & Straker, J., & Simoes, M. (2007, June), Theory And Practice Of Humanitarian Ethics In Graduate Engineering Education Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1481

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