Shaping how future civil engineers will learn: ASCE seeks comments on program criteria

It’s not a stretch to say that the very direction of the civil engineering profession is being debated this summer on ASCE Collaborate.

ASCE is seeking comments on the latest draft version of the ABET Civil Engineering Program Criteria – a checklist that every university and college civil engineering program must follow to be accredited.

In short, these criteria determine how and what civil engineering students learn.

“These students are our future colleagues. This is about their preparation,” said Wayne Bergstrom, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, F.ASCE, a principal engineer for Bechtel in Reston, Virginia, former ABET president, and chair of ASCE’s Civil Engineering Program Criteria Task Committee.

“The criteria represent the expectation of what future civil engineering students will be exposed to and what they should be prepared to address as they enter the profession.”

ASCE members can view the draft program criteria as a series of 19 discussions in ASCE Collaborate and comment on specific elements of the criteria or provide more general feedback.

The Civil Engineering Program Criteria Task Committee – including practitioners and academics – met over several months to review the current ABET criteria, work to better align it with the third edition of ASCE’s Civil Engineering Body of Knowledge, and propose this new draft.

Members have until Aug. 15 to submit their comments on the proposed program criteria.

“We are seeking as broad a perspective and as large a range of input as we can from a wide cross-section of our profession,” Bergstrom said. “It’s so we can see that these students are appropriately prepared for not only working with us in the future but also for their own benefit as they develop into the leaders of the future.”

Learn more and comment at ASCE Collaborate.

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  1. What do most Civil Engineers or Engineers in general lack? The knowledge to run a business or firm. And the ability to promote and sell their services. With today’s laws and tax laws in particular, running a engineering firm is complicated to say the least.

    When selling their services, the small town practice of playing golf with the mayor to get a project has gone the way of the dinosaur. Approaching new clients is difficult if not down right scary. Engineers would rather sit behind their drawing board (computers) and leave the sells to someone else. The engineers of small firms wear the hat of salesman, supervisor, possibly bookkeeper as well as engineer. This lack should be addressed one at the college level and two at the continuing education level.

    • I agree that CE’s need to learn what it takes to run a business. Many CE’s work with private engineering firms, and engineers are predominately the folks that own and manage these firms. However, the four years of education leading to the BS/BE degree need to concentrate on engineering skills. Management and ownership and selling skills are not needed in the first few years out of university. Basic engineering problem solving and design skills are needed immediately upon graduation. These skills must be the focus of the BS/BE time. The other skills should be addressed as the engineer aceeds into positions requiring management and sales acumen.

  2. Civil Engineering is a practicing profession. Hence students who are going to be future engineers should be taught by faculty who had adequate real life practicing experience. At present most of the faculty in civil engineering departments are who never had any real life practicing experience. They go from one Ph.D. academic department to another academic department and so on to a faculty position. They have very little or no industrial experience. ABET criteria must include industrial experience of at least five years for a faculty in civil engineering. At present most of the civil engineering faculty are at the most applied scientists and not practitioners of their profession.
    Being a practical profession, there must be adequate emphasis on laboratory work in the education curriculum of civil engineering students. Over the years lab component has been minimized and is not adequate to say the least. Labs should be well maintained and well equipped by providing lab technicians and should be well equipped. ABET accreditation criteria should enhance and strengthen the lab components of the curriculum requirements. There must be the requirement of technician provision in the labs.
    There must be a provision which addresses the faculty capability of the English language. More incentives should be provided for American students to become faculty. It is a must to maintain quality civil engineering programs.
    The civil engineering ABET requirement for accreditation must be strengthened considering above comments and adding more stringent requirements in terms of minimum number of courses and number of faculty required in a civil engineering department.

  3. Undergraduate Engineering should stick to the basics of Civil Engineering problem solving. Plus English, Report Writing, Contract Law, and American History. Do not attempt to attempt to instill contemporary social biases and theories which come and go. Stick with the scientific approach, based upon real numbers. Emphasize logic and frequent contact with the field. All the answers cannot come from the computer.
    David Herring, Life Member, PE (Ret) age 92

  4. I am interested in the program and would like to take a look at the revised criteria. I was on the Board of Direction about 40-50 years ago and served on the accreditation teams for several schools. I have a love for the value of practical work experience, specifically including construction, and am curious if this is included.

    • I agree. Engineering students should visit construction sites at different progress stages. Get their shoes dirty. Be guided trough the process by the site engineers who know first hand the methods of construction. Engineering schools should have more practitioners in their faculty.

  5. Final year undergraduate research projects should deal with projects that can be realistic and can work out not projects that will definitely fail. Final year projects should be like group of students assigned to a supervisor on a site project from start to finish and probably start from their third year to final year.. Abolish research like materials that can be used for replacement of cement especially when the material is not easily available, expensive and would fail


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