Integrating Interdisciplinarity via Cross College Collaboration: Engineering & Public Policy

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1 Integrating Interdisciplinarity via Cross College Collaboration: Engineering & Public Policy Principal Investigators: Dr. Ron Hira, P.E., Department of STS/Public Policy, CLA Dr. Margaret Bailey, P.E., Department of Mechanical Engineering, COE Dr. James Winebrake, Department of STS/Public Policy, CLA 1. Project summary This project will fund the development and offering of an engineering and public policy course that integrates the engineering and public policy disciplines. The course will be developed jointly by faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and the Kate Gleason College of Engineering to ensure strong cross-college collaboration and true integration. The course curriculum will be unique and innovative. While RIT and other leading universities - such as MIT, Georgia Tech, Carnegie-Mellon and University of Maryland - offer technology policy and even engineering and public policy degrees, we know of no other university that offers this content and this level of integration. The course will serve as a bridge for the new BS/MS program in engineering and science, technology, and public policy. 1 It will also be attractive for engineering majors opting for a public policy minor or concentration. The course will complement other offerings by RIT s public policy program and engineering college by creating new content specifically targeted at and relevant to engineering students. The course will be designed to teach engineering students the important roles that engineers play in affecting public policy, as well as how public policies affect the engineering profession and its practice. It is a cliché that technology has become a major driver, perhaps the most important driver, of social, political and economic change. It follows then that engineers will increasingly shape the direction of those changes, and it is important that engineers understand how their future actions directly and indirectly affect all of our lives. Just as engineers have an important role in shaping public policy, engineering activities, careers, and the profession itself are greatly influenced by public policies. Whether it is the recent public discussion over U.S. innovation and competitiveness policy, given the technological advancements of India and China, or the significant increase in education required for engineering licensure, the engineering profession is being profoundly changed by public policy. Moreover, policies affecting how we as a society live and work such as environmental policy, industrial policy, energy policy, and national security policy, to name a few demand that engineers be prepared to integrate policy issues into their engineering practice. 1 This program, being piloted with Mechanical Engineering, is currently under review. Other engineering disciplines may be added over time. 1

2 Yet the vast majority of engineers have little knowledge of public policy, and most policymakers have little firsthand knowledge about the many technologically-steeped decisions they make. This disparity was recently recognized by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the leading engineering honorific society in the U.S. The NAE has called for new curricula and courses in engineering and public policy to bridge this gap. And the void has also been recognized by the engineering accreditation body, ABET, whose criteria require that engineering degree programs should integrate social context features, such as public policy, into their curricula. In its recent report, Educating the Engineer of 2020, the NAE called for a public policy track in engineering education, saying, a public policy track could serve as a recruiting tool [and] an optimum launch pad to challenging and rewarding professions engineering first and foremost, but also medicine, law and business. In noting the increased convergence between engineering and public policy, NAE found, This new level of interrelatedness necessitates that engineering, and engineers, develop a stronger sense of how technology and public policy interact. To date, engagement of engineers in public policy issues has been limited at best. It is both the responsibility of engineers and important to the image of the profession that engineers increase their ability to eloquently articulate the relevance of engineering to many public policy issues. Once successful, we expect this course to serve as a model for, while catalyzing, the budding developments between COLA and KGCOE. 2. Who are the targeted learners? We expect a broad group of students will be interested in the class, and it will be most attractive to third year engineering students interested in the new BS/MS in engineering and science, technology, and public policy degree program; the public policy minor; or the public policy concentration. Once developed, this course can serve as a differentiator for RIT s recruitment of prospective students, who will see the unique opportunities of our BS/MS degree programs, and help attract engineering graduates from other universities to our graduate public policy degree programs. It will also help with retention of engineering students who are interested in broader social problems, but who have yet to find the right way to channel their technical knowledge towards solving those problems. The impact will go beyond the individual course, with the modules specially developed so, with minimal modification, they can be used in other parts of both the engineering as well as the public policy curricula. In addition, the course material can be used for other courses in the engineering and public policy curriculum. 3. Is this for a current course or new course? This proposal is for a new course and new course material. The course would be offered at least once a year on a recurring basis. We expect that the course will be piloted in the 2007(3) term. Importantly, course material will have to be developed as there are no other courses like it taught at other universities. 4. What is the anticipated impact on teaching and/or learning? We expect the grant to provide the resources and release time to help pay for the start-up costs associated with this course. The collaboration is sure to have spillover and lasting benefits, as faculty across the two colleges get to know one another better and begin to see other opportunities in which to collaborate. 5. How will this project impact student success (i.e., retention)? Many engineering students are driven by strong interests in tackling society s most pressing problems, but they simply don t know how to channel this drive. The course provides them a window into how they could realize those interests. Research has shown that women and underrepresented minority engineering students are particularly interested in community and social issues. Even students who opt for more traditional engineering careers will better understand their role in society and in policy. The expected outcome will be students who are enriched by an innovative, interdisciplinary experience that integrates the disciplines of engineering and public policy. We also hope to create an 2

3 excitement in these students for further involvement or study of engineering and public policy. We expect that this priming of the pump will result in more students taking classes across these disciplines. 6. How you will measure the impact, how you will report your findings, and what you will share about your project in a faculty forum? The evaluation will occur through normal coursework evaluation measures. We will also conduct a preand post- test for the course to gauge students knowledge and perceptions about how public policy and engineering are related. These tests will evaluate, qualitatively and quantitatively, what students have learned and how they have grown from this experience. The course material developed will be available for other public policy and engineering classes and seminars. We will make faculty aware of the material and track how it is being used in other classes and seminars. 7. Present a rationale for your project, as it ties to the intent of the grant, including: a. Why it is not part of regular college business? Cross-college course development and offerings are always difficult because of organizational constraints with incentive structures and resource allocations. That s why this particular initiative is more appropriately funded at the Provost s level. The resources required go beyond the normal operating budget of the departments because course material development is so extensive. We are not aware of any similar course being offered anywhere. While we might be able to put together a course and offer it once without the grant, the grant will help to ensure that the material is modular enough to be used in other courses and by other faculty. b. What is its relevance to required cluster, college, and/or department competencies? This project will play an important role in fulfilling the public policy program s interest in attracting more engineering students to its offerings and to build bridges with engineering faculty and programs. KGCOE is also interested in bringing the societal dimensions of engineering to its engineering program and serving the needs of engineering students interested in such dimensions. We expect this course to be team-taught by faculty from both public policy and engineering, ensuring that the content and delivery is truly integrative. The co-pis have the requisite set of capabilities, knowledge and some unique experiences to develop this course. But the modules will be designed so other faculty will be able to deliver the material. c. How is the project relevant to other faculty and what would take to transfer success? The grant support is critical to develop the course content so that other faculty would be able to deliver the course or modules. We intend on transferring success through annual cross-college course assessment meetings among faculty to talk about the course, course modules, and what worked/didn t work in the course. We also intend on getting other faculty involved in the development and delivery of the course through guest lectures, role playing activities, and other novel learning activities. d. What are the relevant credentials and experience of involved faculty? Dr. Ron Hira is an assistant professor (tenure-track) with the public policy program. Dr. Hira has crossdisciplinary training himself, with a BS & MS in engineering and a Ph.D. in public policy. He has practiced engineering and is a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Hira also serves as vice president of career activities for IEEE-USA, which represents the career and public policy interests of the 220,000 U.S. members of IEEE, the largest engineering professional society. He has firsthand knowledge of the engineer s role in public policy. 3

4 Dr. Margaret Bailey is an associate professor in mechanical engineering and also holds the Kate Gleason Chair within the college. All of her degrees and industry experience are in engineering and she is a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Bailey teaches both undergraduate and graduate engineering courses related to energy and design, and serves as a mentor and advisor to several undergraduate and graduate engineering students. She conducts research focused on advanced thermodynamics, artificial neural networks and system evaluation to improve the match between energy source and end use. Dr. Bailey has extensive experience with developing new curriculum and programs, typically in a team-setting involving faculty from across the college and institute. Dr. Bailey has also team-taught several courses in the past with faculty from electrical, industrial & systems, computer, microelectronics engineering as well as liberal arts. As the Kate Gleason Professor, she is also charged with leading faculty efforts within the college to improve gender diversity specifically, and as such she has initiated a college-level comprehensive program called which includes several outreach, recruitment, and retention aimed initiatives. Dr. James Winebrake is a professor in the public policy program. Dr. Winebrake has an interdisciplinary background, with degrees in physics, technology and policy, and energy management and policy. In his graduate level technology and policy degree (M.I.T.) and his energy management and policy degree (Univ. of Pennsylvania), Dr. Winebrake experienced a curricula that integrated engineering coursework with public policy and policy analysis courses. Dr. Winebrake currently conducts his research in areas that cross these disciplinary boundaries and will be able to bring that extensive experience into the classroom. e. How is this innovation in your discipline or program? The course itself (and the degree(s), minors, and concentrations we expect it to support) are innovative, as we know of no other course in any university that covers this material in the manner we foresee. In addition, the course is clearly aligned with the interests of both departments and colleges. 8. What is the timetable for the development of the project? We will adhere to the following timetable: Task Date Course material development Fall/Winter 2007(1)/(2) Delivery of course Spring 2007(3) Evaluation and assessment of course Spring/Summer 2007(3)/(4) Knowledge transfer on course Fall 2008(1) and future 4

5 PROVOST S LEARNING INNOVATION GRANT APPLICATION PROPOSED BUDGET - ADAPTATION AND IMPLEMENTATION PROGRAM (Track 2) The principal investigator's department or college or unit must provide matching funds to demonstrate broad faculty and administrative support for the project. Funds can be used to cover release time, pay student workers, and/or purchase supplies and services (such as CD pressing, video production, digitizing, photography). Funds will generally not be available for activities consistent with normal college business, overload pay, scholarly research, capital equipment purchase or travel - though the latter will be considered if a clear connection to the project can be demonstrated. Amount Budget Officer Verification SALARIES Adjunct Faculty Compensation $12,000 (College guidelines should be used) Course Release Time - Faculty 2 (Hira, Bailey, Winebrake) $12,000 ITS: $77.53/FTE; adjuncts are charged at.33 FTE $ 78 Student Compensation $ 0 Other Compensation - Professional services $ 0 Other Compensation - Consultants $ 0 Other Compensation - Honoraria $ 0 SALARIES TOTAL $ 0 SUPPLIES Instructional $ 422 Software $ 0 Laboratory $ 0 General $ 0 SUPPLIES TOTAL $ 422 SERVICES Attach estimates as appropriate NTID $ 0 ETC $ 0 HUB mailing/copying $ 0 Other (describe) $ 0 SERVICES TOTAL $ 0 TOTAL BUDGET REQUEST $12,500 MATCHING FUNDS FROM DEPARTMENT/COLLEGE 3 $ 6,250* Department Head and Dean s signatures required. (Department Head-STS/PP) * Should be ½ of Total Budget Request (Department Head-ME) 2 Adjunct faculty will be used to provide course release for the co-pis. The summer salary line was deleted as no summer salary is required. 3 Of this, $4,000 will come from the Department of STS/Public Policy and $2,250 will come from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. 5

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