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Undergraduate STEM Students and Community Engagement Activities: Initial Findings from an Assessment of Their Concern for Public Well-being

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors

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Alexandra Erwin


Jason Borenstein Georgia Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Jason Borenstein is the Director of Graduate Research Ethics Programs and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His responsibilities include administering a Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) policy for all new doctoral students at Georgia Tech and instructing undergraduate and graduate courses on topics at the intersection of science, engineering, and ethics. Dr. Borenstein is also Editor for Research Ethics for the National Academy of Engineering's Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science. He is an assistant editor of the journal Science and Engineering Ethics and co-editor of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's Ethics and Information Technology section. His research interests include bioethics, engineering ethics, robot ethics, and research ethics. His work has appeared in various journals including AI & Society, Communications of the ACM, the Journal of Academic Ethics, Ethics and Information Technology, IEEE Technology & Society, Accountability in Research, and the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review.

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Wendy C. Newstetter Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr Wendy C. Newstetter is theAssistant Dean for Educational Research and Innovation in the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

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Colin Potts Georgia Institute of Technology

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Colin Potts is Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As Vice Provost he is responsible for academic support, career advising, the integration of curricular and co-curricular programs, community engagement, curricular planning and the Honors Program. His research areas are requirements engineering, software privacy, and professional ethics.

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Ellen Zegura Georgia Institute of Technology

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Ellen Zegura is the Stephen Fleming endowed chair in Computer Science at Georgia Tech. Her research interests include computer networking, civic data and design, and teaching community engagement.

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In response to findings from the Cech study on the Culture of Disengagement at American engineering institutions [1], much concern has emerged regarding how future engineers might not be developing a mindset that places the public’s well-being as a foremost priority. This, of course, could have an important bearing on the type of professionals that academic institutions are sending out into the world. Many candidate explanations could presumably emerge in terms of why students become “disengaged”, including practical worries about obtaining a job or paying off debt from college. Against this theoretical backdrop, our research team is in the process of investigating what may help to combat, or at least mitigate, this type of problem. In other words, we are seeking to identify which specific facets of community engagement activities contribute to or fortify the concern that engineering and other STEM students have for the well-being of the public. Our team is in the process of embarking on a five-year grant funded project to study the effects of a broad range of community engagement activities, both inside and outside of the classroom.

In this presentation, we will provide an overview of the community engagement and ethics project at our institution, including a description of our assessment efforts. We will primarily focus here on the quantitative components, which involve the use of an assessment instrument to collect data about how undergraduate STEM students perceive their responsibilities for upholding the public’s well-being. We are administering a modified version of the Engineering Professional Responsibility Assessment (EPRA) survey created by Angela Bielefeldt and her team at the University of Colorado Boulder. Our modifications to the EPRA survey were made with the goal of reaching more students in STEM fields than just engineering majors. We will share initial findings from the first stage of data collection obtained from our primary study cohort, which is the Fall 2017 undergraduate class. As the project proceeds, our hope is to collect and share findings that may shape the curriculum at engineering and other STEM institutions.

Erwin, A., & Borenstein, J., & Newstetter, W. C., & Potts, C., & Zegura, E. (2018, June), Undergraduate STEM Students and Community Engagement Activities: Initial Findings from an Assessment of Their Concern for Public Well-being Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31172

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