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What Role do Civil Engineering Students See for their Profession in the COVID-19 Response?

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Moral Development and Ethics Assessment in Engineering

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/38048

Download Count

99

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Paper Authors

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Michaela Leigh LaPatin P.E. University of Texas at Austin

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Michaela LaPatin is pursuing her MS and PhD in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her current research focuses on macroethics education in undergraduate engineering programs.

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Cristina Poleacovschi Iowa State University

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Dr. Poleacovschi is an Assistant Professor at Iowa State University. She researches issues of diversity and focuses on intersectional aspects of microaggressions.

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Kate Padgett Walsh Iowa State University of Science and Technology Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-5215-6475

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Dr. Kate Padgett Walsh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Iowa State University. She received a B.A. from Middlebury College, an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. Her research focuses on ethics and the history of ethics, including the ethics of debt and finance, as well as the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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Scott Grant Feinstein

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Dr. Scott Feinstein is an expert in research design and comparative and identity politics.

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Cassandra Rutherford Iowa State University

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Dr. Cassandra Rutherford is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Constructions and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on geotechnical engineering and engineering education.

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Luan Minh Nguyen Iowa State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-3183-4804

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Luan M. Nguyen is an MA/Ph.D. student in Anthropology/Civil Engineering, who completed his Master of Science in Biochemistry at Iowa State University and his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Hartwick College. His first master's thesis focused on the structural analysis of the schizophrenic gene DISC1 using transmission electron microscopy and hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry. For his second master's thesis, he focuses on identifying the individual and institutional factors that contribute to a "culture of disengagement" from the ethical dimension of engineering work among students in the engineering profession. His Ph.D. project is funded by the NSF and is concerned with promoting and improving engineering students' ethical behavior and sensitivity through on-campus student organizations. His academic interests include mental health, international development, human rights, and engineering ethics. Currently, his ambition is to work within an international organization such as UNESCO and to be an advocate for promoting science and technology as critical tools of sustainable development as well as to participate in the dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, and society. Luan enjoys traveling, reading, and watching documentaries.

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Kasey M. Faust University of Texas at Austin Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7986-4757

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Dr. Kasey Faust is an Assistant Professor in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research on sociotechnical systems—primarily water sector infrastructure—aims to improve service to communities. Dr. Faust’s work spans the project phase during construction through the operations phase, exploring human-infrastructure interactions, infrastructure interdependencies, and the institutional environment. Current studies within her research group include: human-water sector infrastructure interdependencies in cities experiencing urban decline; disaster migration and the resilience of the built environment; incorporating equity into water infrastructure decision-making; sociotechnical modeling of infrastructure systems including gentrification and food deserts; the impact of policies and regulations on the built environment; understanding the impact of institutional elements on projects; and modeling of public perceptions.

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Liam Verses University of Texas at Austin

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Liam Verses is pursuing a BS in Environmental Engineering and a BA in Plan II Honors at The University of Texas at Austin. His current research focuses on macroethics in undergraduate engineering programs. His other academic interests include water and climate security as well as systems thinking and infrastructure interdependencies.

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Abstract

Engineering education typically focuses on technical knowledge rather than ethical development. When ethics are incorporated into curriculum, the focus is usually on microethics concerning issues that arise in particular contexts and interactions between individuals, rather than macroethics that address broad societal concerns. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a unique opportunity to assess macroethical understanding because unjust social, economic, and environmental systems have been brought to the forefront of the response. In this study, we aim to understand students’ awareness of unjust systems and the ethical responsibilities of engineers. At the beginning of the pandemic in the United States, in April 2020, we deployed a survey to undergraduate engineering students at two universities. We asked students to explain what they perceived to be the role of the engineering profession in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This paper focuses on the responses of undergraduate civil engineering students, totaling a sample size of 84 students across two universities. We used qualitative analyses (deductive and inductive coding) to categorize responses between “macroethics is present” and “macroethics is not present”, and we used quantitative analysis to test the two categories with sociodemographic factors for association. We show that there are statistically significant differences across student responses given certain sociodemographic factors. Responses from women focused more on macroethics as compared to responses from men. There was also a difference in responses between the universities surveyed, showing that institutional differences may impact students’ macroethical development. Potential implications from this study include recommendations on curricular content and identifying which student demographic groups would benefit most from intentional macroethical content in coursework. Additionally, increasing diversity and representation of women in engineering may impact the engineering industry’s focus on macroethics.

LaPatin, M. L., & Poleacovschi, C., & Padgett Walsh, K., & Feinstein, S. G., & Rutherford, C., & Nguyen, L. M., & Faust, K. M., & Verses, L. (2021, July), What Role do Civil Engineering Students See for their Profession in the COVID-19 Response? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38048

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