It is important that engineers are educated to consider the social impacts of their work, understanding that engineering is a socio-technical endeavor. Some students are specifically drawn to engineering due to a desire to have a positive impact on people and the environment, while others may find these considerations burdensome. Student attitudes about socially responsible engineering have been found to differ based on a variety of demographic factors of the students (e.g., gender and race/ethnicity) and their environment (discipline, institution).
Motivations to help people through engineering can change as students are socialized and enculturated – and have generally shown to trend downward. Further, research has found that some of the students are most motivated to help others transfer out of engineering. A complex array of factors can influence these student pathways, including course content, co-curricular and extracurricular activities, role models, and discipline, department, and institutional cultures. This presentation will examine these issues.
Angela Bielefeldt is a Professor of Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering and Director of the Engineering Plus program at the University of Colorado Boulder.