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Announcing New Fall Program: HERE

April 11, 2011

Rose-Hulman Taking Steps
to Infuse Sustainability into Engineering Education

  water tesing
   

Realizing that engineers will play key roles in addressing climate change, Starting in the 2011-12 academic year, the Home for Environmentally Responsible Engineering (HERE) program aims to integrate, in an unprecedented way, the best aspects of residential learning with a specialized pilot curriculum in which sustainability will be incorporated into special sections of required courses.  The program will provide a model for making sustainability a foundation of engineering education, and increasing students' awareness of environmental issues and skills in sustainable design. ecological crises and future energy development, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is offering a select group of first-year students a unique educational experience in sustainability.

"HERE marks the beginning of a new direction for engineering education at Rose-Hulman," said Corey Taylor, assistant professor of English.  "Through educating sustainability-conscious engineers, Rose-Hulman has the opportunity to make the world a better place for everyone.  It's a very global, very avant garde way of thinking."

Students in the HERE group, which could feature as many as 44 freshmen this fall, will live in the same residence hall and be assigned to special course sections in which the disciplinary methodologies of science, engineering, mathematics and the humanities and social sciences will address sustainability concerns.  Faculty members will hold office hours in the student residence hall, providing new opportunities for mentoring.  And, the residence hall itself will become a target for design projects to produce material improvements based on what students have learned.

"Curriculum and residence life will meld into one educational unit to a degree that has not yet been achieved in engineering education," states HERE Director Patricia Brackin, professor of mechanical engineering, one of 10 faculty members who have spent the past nine months developing the program.

"Sustainability problems pose serious challenges for engineering education," she added.  "As students learn engineering fundamentals, design skills and professional practices, the complexity of sustainability principles and practices is routinely underplayed.  The HERE program addresses this area in engineering education."

Mark Minster, associate professor of English and an advocate for sustainable education, believes that if it is important to integrate sustainability concerns across the curriculum, then it is equally important to incorporate them in other areas of educational experience -- most notably the campus where students live.

"For the last 15 years, some of the most innovative and important educational initiatives -- approaches called 'greening the campus' and 'place-based education' -- have evolved out of the unique opportunity presented by the university setting: that students and faculty can face sustainability issues intellectually in a curriculum on the campus where it is taught," Minster said.

Middlebury College, Oberlin College and Berea College, all liberal arts institutions, have been the most influential in integrating a sustainability curriculum with the lived experience of campus, allowing students to investigate, measure and even help redesign the buildings they inhabit and the practices in which they participate.

In the engineering area, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is debuting this fall an effort to incorporate sustainability into residential life in an elective residential program; California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has implemented a Sustainability Across the Curriculum program; and Rochester Institute of Technology offers a graduate program in sustainability.

Rose-Hulman's HERE program will combine the vital imperatives behind the RPI and Cal Poly initiatives, and sets a new course for engineering education.

 

HERE students will take a special Rhetoric and Composition course, along with the introductory College & Life Skills course during the fall quarter.  They'll then take a course in Sustainability and Its Global Contexts during the winter quarter, and spend the spring studying an Introduction to Design course, which will culminate with a sustainability engineering-themed project.

Throughout the year, the students will work with faculty from engineering, sciences and humanities with expertise in sustainability studies.

Students give "Poster Talks" to present sustainable ideas and field questions from passersby about what they've learned.

Procter & Gamble has provided a grant to support the HERE program, and other corporations desire students with exposure to sustainability solutions for internships, co-ops and full-time jobs, according to Kathleen Toohey, assistant professor of mechanical engineering

An ambitious faculty development program will promote authentic, substantial expertise in environmental issues and sustainable engineering.  Each summer, workshops advised by experts on sustainability in engineering education will help 15 to 20 faculty members to incorporate principles and methods of sustainability into their courses.

"The hope is to infuse sustainability across Rose-Hulman's curriculum," said Richard House, associate professor of English.

Learn more about Rose-Hulman's HERE program at www.rose-hulman.edu/HERE
Or Contact: Dr. Patricia Brackin.

Related:  Rose-Hulman's Commitment to Arbor Life: