As Mines continues to lead in engineering education, faculty members are working to provide new opportunities for students through a proposed Humanitarian Engineering (HE) major.
“Many people think that the time has come to have the first major—a full fledged bachelor’s degree with 128 credits or so—in Humanitarian Engineering,” explained Dr. Juan Lucena, Director of the Humanitarian Engineering program. “It will be the first one of its kind in the country.” Although the program is still awaiting approval at the institutional and state levels, many of the details are already in place.
In 2003, CSM led the way with the first HE minor in the country; today, the minor is 18 credits and includes coursework on engineering and social justice, corporate social responsibility, and human-centered design, among other subjects.
“The minor is very restrictive,” Lucena asserted. “There are always more things that engineers need to know—the body of knowledge is growing so you cannot keep it contained into 18 credits.”
The proposed major would include the Mines’ core curriculum as well as an engineering core curriculum with courses like Statics, Circuits, Mechanics of Materials, and EPICS. Additionally, the major would have an HE core with many of the courses currently present in the minor.
“You can also specialize in one of two areas: Community Development or Corporate Social Responsibility,” explained Dr. Jessica Smith, Assistant Professor in the LAIS division. In this regard, the program aims to prepare students for international engineering work and corporate work, a component that currently sets the minor apart from other HE programs around the country.
“We very specifically think about how our students could also find careers in the corporate world,” Smith discussed. “Engineers have everything to do with how a company actually ends up interacting with a community or influencing a community.”
While the proposed HE major has received a great amount of support and interest from various departments on campus, the brand-new nature of the program presents several challenges.
“The main concern is the employability of the graduates,” stated Lucena. “At the end of the day after 4 years, where are they going to work? Who is going to hire them?” Both Lucena and Smith are working on determining demand for HE work and making connections with possible employers.
“Companies already have their checklists of what degrees they interview for and so it’s a question also of engaging and educating employers about what students with this degree could do,” Smith explained.
However, the innovative nature of the degree also provides a unique opportunity for CSM as an institution.
“To have a school like the Colorado School of Mines with a full-blown HE degree that takes engineering and the service of communities very seriously sends a statement about what engineering is and what you can do with it,” Smith remarked.
The program would also work to supplement existing degree programs at Mines and to inspire more students, particularly women, to consider engineering. If the university and the state of Colorado approve the new major, it will be partially funded by a $2 million gift to the HE program from Mines’ alum Chuck Shultz.
“This would be an amazing complement to many things that are already happening at Mines,” Lucena expressed.
Photo courtesy Juan Lucena.