Engineering disciplines evolve over time, in response to ever-advancing theoretical understanding and the needs of society. The evolution of environmental engineering (EE) in the United States over the past 60 years is an excellent example of this process. The Body of Knowledge for EE programs has expanded considerably, and there has been substantial growth in the number of ABET accredited degree programs over the past 20 years. ABET recently changed the accreditation program criteria by adding, among other changes, “…design environmental engineering systems that include considerations of risk, uncertainty, sustainability, life-cycle principles, and environmental impacts;…”. In addition, professional engineering licensure in the U.S. now recognizes EE. The disciplinary knowledge of EE faculty has also evolved, and effective delivery of educational programs requires unique administrative structures. In this paper, we discuss the transformation of the EE Program at Purdue University , including both the curriculum transformation and the accreditation process.
The Environmental and Ecological (EEE) education program offered at Purdue University integrates a systems-based approach to studying anthropogenic impacts on the natural environment, helps to embed themes of environmental sustainability across different majors, and incorporates pedagogical innovation. In this paper, we discuss specific courses in the EEE program (“Industrial Ecology and Life-Cycle Analysis” and “Environmental, Ecological, and Engineering Systems”) that illustrate innovation of curriculum content. We also present data demonstrating undergraduate engineering student participation and interest in environmentally-related courses. Innovative approaches to teaching, such as a Learning Community for engineering students interested in sustainability, will also be discussed.
The impact of these education programs can be measured in terms of student participation in EEE major and minor programs (total participation as well as growth), learning outcomes related to environmental sustainability, and student diversity.
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