The Engagement of Engineering Societies in Undergraduate Engineering Education

Project Status
May 10, 2021
Project Sponsor
National Science Foundation
Purdue University
Other Related Resources

Professional engineering societies can play an important role in building the capacity of the field. This goal is often approached through efforts to improve and make more accessible the educational opportunities available to those in, or wishing to gain entry to, the profession. Among many roles, professional engineering societies may provide continuing education opportunities to their members, set and maintain professional standards, help clarify the knowledge and skill base needed by those practicing in the field, create community for members who are underrepresented in their field, and serve as a bridge between employers and schools of engineering. These efforts, along with those by industry, federal agencies, and institutions of higher education, help build and sustain a viable engineering workforce.

This project takes an in-depth look at the nature and extent of professional engineering societies’ contributions to improving the quality and effectiveness of US undergraduate engineering education. The project also provides an opportunity for the societies and other stakeholders, such as universities and industry, to share their insights, learn what others are doing, make new contacts, and explore possible collaborations.

The first phase of the project involved data collection and analysis. This included a literature review of the relevant research and analysis by NAE staff of information on engineering societies’ websites about their activities in undergraduate engineering education. The core of this phase of the project was a survey of engineering societies with follow-up interviews to gain a better understanding the societies’ undergraduate education activities.

The analysis served as background for a national workshop on January 26 and 27, 2017 in Washington DC. Over 80 academics and engineering societies leaders came together to discuss issues and share ideas on undergraduate engineering education. Discussions were kicked off by 22 “lightning” presentations from 14 societies, highlighting their educational programs and activities. The Proceedings of that workshop was published in December 2017.

In the next phase, the project conducted a series of regional meetings centered on topics identified as important in the kick-off workshop. The first of these was held on September 18, 2017 at the University of Southern California to explore the possibility of a competition for undergraduate students based on the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering. A Proceedings – In Brief summarizing the discussions was published in February 2018.

The second in this series of follow-up workshops was held February 12, 2018 on the campus of Georgia Tech to explore how engineering societies may help define and articulate the concept of faculty impact as part of the faculty recruitment and evaluation processes. A summary Proceedings of the discussions was published in July 2018.

The third meeting took place on June 4, 2018 at the University of Cincinnati. This workshop examined societies’ programs and activities to support diversity and inclusion, provided an opportunity to share promising practices, and investigated possible collaborative actions. A Proceedings – In Brief summarizing the discussions was published in December 2018.

The final workshop explored how engineering societies can help better align engineering education with the needs of industry. The meeting was held on December 6, 2018 at the National Academy of Sciences building in Washington DC. A Proceedings – In Brief was published in May 2019.

A summary of the NAE Engineering Societies project was presented in a Distinguished Lecture session at the ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition on June 19, 2019 in Tampa, FL, sponsored by ASEE’s Engineering Deans Council and Corporate Member Council.

The project was funded by the National Science Foundation with additional funding was provided by the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University.