2 thoughts on “Perspective: The True Grand Challenge for Engineering: Self-Knowledge

  1. Harold

    Dear Prof. Mitcham,
    if you could develop the ideal Bachelor or Science curriculum for Engineering programs, what would it look like. I attended the University of Texas at Austin, and of the 126 credit hours I needed to graduate, fully 27 (6 hours American History, 6 hours American Govt, 3 hours rhetoric and composition, 3 hours masterworks of literature, 3 hours on classics/performing arts, 3 hours of social or behavioral science). As you can see more than 20% of my degree was non-engineering, humanities based!

    Since I left, the University has added an additional course for first year students called Signature Course, which in an interdisciplinary course, allowing students to experience what other colleges in the University have to offer.

    In a time when engineering and technology is changing rapidly, the University has to make a choice. Students needs a curriculum that will make them enter the world prepared to take up technology challenges that are getting more and more complex. The graduate engineer of today with just a BS degree is dealing with challenges and problems that his or her counterpart 20 years ago could not even dream of. At this point, what would serve an undergraduate better? An additional course in engineering or an extra course in humanities?

    At a time when student debt needed to complete a degree is very high, is it fair to the student to increase degree requirements so that the 4 year degree becomes extinct and is replaced by a 5 year degree which will allow an additional 30 hours or so of coursework? And what should that coursework consist of? An engineering student, is it fair that I should be expected to take on additional debt, only to forced to take humanities courses that offer me no technical benefit?

    And what about grad school. As we go in for specialization, should there be a humanities requirement for what is already a very intensive 18-24 month program (if you go for your masters,), and up to 60 months (if you go for your phd), and you are totally focused on getting your thesis or dissertation done?

  2. Chinarut

    Interesting – I came here through a Google search attempting to discover where the biggest cluster of knowledge engineers are in the world. Apparently because these types of engineers overlap heavily w humanities (philosophy, anthropology, psychology…), it’s no surprise to find your share.

    I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Electrical/Computer Engineering and want to let you know my experience of the humanities was not an escape, it felt like a distraction (at the time)

    If I had to redo my college life over again, I would wish that someone would help me find a social context that mattered to me. It’s all too easy to be a geek and live in an idealize techie world to the point of all you want to do is build using technology. I’ve since been trained in a large # of leadership and community development courses, taken on building countless communities and see the value of the humanities is providing a context for technology that is compelling – one I can be passionate about in my heart.

    I feel I wouldn’t be so nearly as burnt out as I am right now had I gained such a perspective much sooner.

    I appreciate your desire to have engineers integrate the humanities at a much deeper level.

    I look forward to hearing where you take this initiative and how you would like engineers who appreciate your message to support you!


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