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Civil Engineering Education Summit

  • MAY 28–30, 2019 | DALLAS, TEXAS

    Over 200 civil engineering educators, practitioners, and guests convened at the 2019 Civil Engineering Education Summit in Dallas, Texas, in May 2019 to consider the future of civil engineering education. The group discussions and workshops produced four major objectives for engineering educational systems.

    Download the full Summit Report (PDF)

    REEXAMINE AND POTENTIALLY REDEFINE THE DOMAIN OF CIVIL ENGINEERING

    The world is becoming increasingly complex – thus, the challenges faced by engineers are becoming increasingly complex. Summit participants dared to ask the question: “In the context of the mid-21st century, what is a civil engineer?” Two elements related to this most fundamental question reflect the impact of technological advancement and the evolving role of the civil engineer in society.

    The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge, 3rd Edition (CEBOK3) calls for a combination of formal education, structured mentoring, and self-directed learning to position the civil engineer for career success, recognizing the multiple roles that civil engineers must serve in modern society. An undergraduate civil engineering curriculum provides the foundation on which to build the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of the future civil engineer.

    Three areas receiving significant attention by Summit participants included:

    1. Learning new competencies related to emerging technologies that are rapidly changing civil engineering (e.g., data science, robotics, sensors, drones, and virtual reality), as well as the knowledge and skills needed to use those technologies.
    2. Integrating more systems thinking into civil engineering education through real-world problem solving, project-based education, and high-impact experiences such as internships, service learning, study abroad, student organizations, and competitions.
    3. Promoting a culture of innovation within the profession through more directed teaching of creative processes, entrepreneurship, and evaluation of risk as an integral part of curricula and mentored practice.

    These Summit discussions give rise to a major implication for 21st-century civil engineering education: curricular flexibility. Summit participants called for civil engineering departments to define for themselves a program of study to meet the needs of their stakeholders within very broad overarching guidelines. Such flexibility enables a more rapid response to technological changes in the profession; an integration of instruction addressing future roles of civil engineers; and an elevation of professional skills as a requirement of civil engineering education. These benefits must be balanced by a recognition of the benefit of having some degree of uniformity in education across the profession.

    ELEVATE PROFESSIONAL SKILLS TO AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH TECHNICAL SKILLS

    The need for strong professional skills has long been recognized by both civil engineering educators and practitioners.

    The ASEE “Grinter Report” (1955) included two outcomes related to this concept:

    1. “An insistence upon the development of a high level of performance in the oral, written, and graphical communication of ideas”
    2. “A continuing, concentrated effort to strengthen and integrate work in the humanistic and social sciences into engineering programs”

    The Summary Report of the 1995 Civil Engineering Education Conference contained numerous recommendations related to professional skills, such as:

    1. “Emphasize the need for sensitivity to culturally diverse groups”
    2. “Encourage students to convey the importance of engineering works to non-engineering students on campus”
    3. “Recognize communication skills, leadership skills, management, and teamwork by creating awards for students”
    4. “Provide learning from non-verbal communication and listening skills”
    5. “Provide industry speakers to emphasize the importance of communication skills, leadership, management, and teamwork”

    The Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge, 3rd Edition , published in 2019, also recognizes this need. It includes six outcomes related to professional skills: communication, teamwork and leadership, lifelong learning, professional attitudes, professional responsibilities, and ethical responsibilities.

    DEVELOP A DIVERSE, INCLUSIVE, EQUITABLE AND ENGAGING CULTURE WITHIN THE CIVIL ENGINEERING PROFESSION

    Summit participants engaged in significant discussion regarding “professional culture” and related topics in the context of civil engineering. Although it may be tempting to place these topics and discussions within the realm of professional skills and attitudes, this subject rose to represent a major theme of the event. Participants explored the distinct yet interconnected nature of diversity, inclusion, and equity; the need to engage students at all levels; and the concept of permeating the student educational experience with these concepts. Summit participants suggested that the following elements need to be addressed by the entire profession, within both the education and practitioner communities:

    • Dedicated and intentional instruction and training related to diversity, inclusion, and equity;
    • Increasing representation within the profession— including student bodies, faculty ranks, and practitioners (at all levels);
    • Modeling inclusivity and equity in the classroom and in the workplace; and
    • Engaging students at all levels (K-12, college/ university), and communicating the value of a civil engineering degree.

    FOSTER AN ONGOING COMMITMENT TO TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION

    Summit participants agreed that the 2019 Civil Engineering Education Summit was highly worthwhile and expressed both hope and confidence that real and significant change could result from the work accomplished during the Summit. Change will require:

    • Ongoing commitment of the civil engineering community – educators and practitioners – to provide the time, effort, and resources necessary to develop, implement, and monitor actions arising from the Summit recommendations.
    • A regular schedule of civil engineering education events, both annually at existing ASCE conferences and through follow-up Summits on a 6- to 8-year basis, to assess progress on initiatives from previous efforts and to address new challenges and opportunities.
    • Support of academia and the profession, including ASCE, to dedicate resources to the priorities identified at the Summit.

    Have thoughts and comments on the report and next steps for ASCE to pursue? Share them with ASCE’s Committee on Education.

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