Asee peer logo

Volunteerism in Engineering Students and Its Relation to Social Responsibility

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civic Engagement and Volunteerism in Engineering

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1710.1 - 26.1710.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Nathan E. Canney P.E. Seattle University


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

visit author page

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.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Volunteerism in Engineering Students and Its Relation to Social ResponsibilityAddressing how engineering students view their role in society, their social responsibility, isseen as a central aspect toward creating holistic engineers who are able to address complex socialissues such as climate change, equitable access to resources, and sustainable development. TheProfessional Social Responsibility Development Model (PSRDM) provides a framework forsocial responsibility development in professionals including recognizing the needs of others andthe ability to help, connecting professional content and capacity to helping others, and havingpersonal and professional feelings of obligation to help others. Included in this model is acyclical path where feelings of professional obligation to help others are enhanced throughengaging in service. The effects of engaging in service are described using the five stages of thepreviously developed Service Learning Model. Relating volunteer activities and service-learningwith views of social responsibility in a quantitative way is difficult. This study attempts to dothis by quantifying volunteer histories and correlating those scores with views of personal andprofessional social responsibility among engineering students.Data for this study were collected through the Engineering Professional ResponsibilityAssessment (EPRA) which was developed to operationalize the PSRDM. EPRA has been shownto have strong evidence of reliability and validity related to the PSRDM framework. This surveywas distributed to undergraduate engineering students at 17 universities in the spring of 2014,representing all engineering majors and academic years. Over 2200 students completed thesurvey, including Likert-type items measuring their views of social responsibility and detailingtheir previous volunteer histories by both activity and frequency.Student reported their level of participation in 17 different volunteer or community serviceactivities during college, or could write-in their own activity. The most frequently citedactivities were: unpaid tutoring of college students; tutoring elementary or secondary children,and donating blood (42-49%). A high percentage of students (26-39%) also participated inservice-learning projects, community service via a professional society (ASCE, ASME, AAEE,etc.), unpaid coaching or sports camp volunteer, food bank volunteer, or a short term on-siteservice project (i.e. spring break service trip, EWB/ESW in-country work). Thirty-nine percentof the students also wrote-in a unique service activity. The median activity level for most ofthese common community service activities more than twice but not routinely. Only 5% of thestudents reported no level of participation in volunteer or community service activities.Overall volunteerism was quantified using linear and nonlinear weighting systems for both thevolunteer activity and volunteer frequency. Weighting systems were explored using the fivephases and the four key variables of the Service Learning Model. The quality of each weightingsystem was explored through correlations with student views of social responsibility. Resultsshowed that, irrespective of the weighting system, volunteerism had poor to moderate correlationwith social responsibility. Looking specifically at the eight dimensions of the PSRDM, thestrongest correlations existed between volunteerism and how engineering students weighted thecosts and benefits of volunteering and how they saw their professional obligation to help othersas engineers or through their profession; though these remained only moderate correlations (0.3).

Canney, N. E., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2015, June), Volunteerism in Engineering Students and Its Relation to Social Responsibility Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25046

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015