Alternative Curricular Models for Meeting the Requirements
Given that ABET has also stressed the idea of creativity in meeting its requirements, Rose-Hulman’s model is by far not the only one currently used in engineering education. A number of innovative approaches exist on other campuses in the U.S. This section will review several atypical approaches to meeting the ABET standards. In this way a broad overview of humanities and social science education in the context of engineering education will be provided.
University of Virginia. The University of Virginia is one of the few remaining with its own humanities and social sciences department in the College of Engineering. Engineering students take four to six HSS courses in the College of Arts and Sciences and at least four within the College of Engineering itself. The intention is that some of the HSS requirements be met in courses where engineering students have the opportunity to interact with other students at the University, while other courses have a more immediate connection to the students’ career plans. The courses internal to the College of Engineering are designed to be an integral part of engineering education, concerned especially with the relation of "technology and the world that produces it." These required course are: one freshman writing course, one STS course, one history course in Western technology and culture, and one course concerned with values called "The Engineer in Society." The latter two are taken at the senior level and are integrated with an engineering thesis project students are required to write.
Colorado School of Mines. The School of Mines offers an interdisciplinary honors program in public affairs, resulting in a minor in public affairs. It is seen as "active liberal learning," which emphasizes the role of technology. It includes five interdisciplinary seminar courses, an internship or travel during the summer following the junior year, and a capstone senior course. Each seminar has three faculty member, an HSS leader and two from science or engineering. For those students not following the honors track, two freshmen seminar courses focusing on the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge are required.
Harvey Mudd College. Harvey Mudd has probably the most extensive, but the most traditional, HSS requirements in engineering education. Students are required to take a minimum of twelve HSS courses. At the freshman level they take Rhetoric (a writing course) and Humanities II (introduction to college level research and discussion skills in HSS). Humanities II is offered in eight different versions and has an interdisciplinary emphasis. After the freshman year students take nine electives. Courses, as a rule, are not tailored to engineers, with most being discipline specific. The program has distribution and depth requirements. The final course is a senior seminar in a particular HSS discipline.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Probably the most innovative HSS program is at Worcester. It requires the completion of a humanities sufficiency. This consists of five or more thematically related courses, followed by an individual research activity, known as a mini-thesis. The program can be thought of as a thematic minor which synthesizes knowledge, as opposed to many survey courses in different fields. Students also take two required social science courses. Finally, as part of their engineering requirements, students must complete an interactive qualifying project which explores the two-way relationship between technology and society. The project is undertaken at the junior level and equals at least three conventional courses. The project must contain both a technology and a humanities/societal dimension.
While the above illustrate a variety of approaches to fulfilling the ABET accreditation requirements, it should be noted that many engineering schools require only the minimum number of courses mandated by ABET and leave much of the choice up to students. Most do require a freshman level English course and many fulfill the depth requirement through the use of a two course introductory humanities sequence. The rather haphazard fashion in which many engineering schools treat their HSS requirements is, however, likely to no longer be a viable approach in the near future.