When The Teagle Foundation embarked on an initiative to bring the liberal arts (including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics) into closer academic and intellectual alignment with professional schools and programs, engineering soon became our major focus. It is clearly a field in which much relevant work is occurring, work that merits both support and attention. Engineering schools at universities often enjoy a closer relationship to the rest of a university than do its other professional schools. An engineering program can even flourish at a traditional liberal arts college.
Our original goal was to see how the liberal arts – in terms of both the skills they foster and the content they provide – could play a more organic role in professional preparation, as opposed to being a segregated set of “general education” requirements too often viewed as obstacles to get past. We came to realize, however, that we should be supporting a journey in both directions. In the particular case of engineering, we realized that we should also be exploring how the undergraduate liberal arts curriculum can be enriched by closer ties to engineering programs and to the ways in which engineers are prepared for their vocation.
It has been The Teagle Foundation's good fortune to work with Sheila Tobias as a consultant, given her distinguished track record in the related fields of science and math education. The ASEE is another natural and valuable partner; we are very pleased to see the Teagle-funded case studies featured on this website where they can find an especially likely audience.
Judith Shapiro, President, Teagle Foundation, February 12, 2014
ASEE is thrilled to be a part of this project supported by The Teagle Foundation. We believe that engineering is central to the solution of many of the challenges facing our society and the world. Having an increased understanding of engineering processes by future policy makers, industrialists, consumers, and citizens would be of immense value to developing rational solutions that satisfy human needs. Crucial to this effort is also having more members of the engineering and engineering technology communities become sensitive to and willing to provide the practical knowledge of our professions required by non-majors. This project has the potential to greatly contribute to the achievement of these outcomes.
For decades now, encouraged by the National Academy of Engineering, NSF, and other bodies, higher education has been committed to expanding technological literacy. What is new and defines this collection of case examples is a growing consensus that “technological literacy” has to be grounded in the intellectual discipline of engineering.
In only seven months of inquiry, more than a dozen interesting, varied, and so far successful (in terms of faculty commitment and student enrollment) courses and programs have been identified. These new courses and programs stem from no single source. Rather, they encompass a wide variety of initiatives: from the dream and long-term commitment of a single faculty member (Princeton), to the initiative by a college president (Wesleyan), a college-wide commitment to including Engineering in a newly constituted set of General Education offerings (Univ. of Maryland), and to a university-wide one-course Tech graduation requirement at Stony Brook originating in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.