Integrating the Liberal Arts Into Engineering Education

The liberal arts should be an integral part of engineering education, according to Loni M. Bordoloi, program director at the Teagle Foundation, and James J. Winebrake, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, they describe several innovative programs that are bringing these two distinct worlds together:

  • A civil-engineering course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute challenges students to invent ways to clean up the Blackstone River, which was highly polluted in the late nineteenth century, by using technology available in that era.
  • At Lawrence Technological University, meanwhile, students read several classics of western literature, such as The Odyssey and Brave New World and examine each from a technological perspective. The goal, state the authors, is to ” explore the way ethnically, geographically, or historically diverse cultures perceive both the benefits and the dangers of technological progress.”

These historical and cross cultural approaches to instruction should sound familiar to tribal college faculty who are finding their own ways to integrate social, historical, and cultural issues into their STEM programs, including the growing number of engineering and pre-engineering degree programs. But examples from mainstream universities might provide some additional ideas for instructors looking for ways to make engineering courses interesting and relevant.

The full Chronicle of Higher Education op ed is available here: http://chronicle.com/article/Bringing-the-Liberal-Arts-to/229671/

For more about Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Liberal Arts and Engineering degree program:  http://www.wpi.edu/academics/lae/

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