As part of an NSF Department Level Reform (DLR) grant, the civil and environmental engineering programs at the University of Vermont (UVM) incorporated systems thinking and a systems approach to engineering problem solving within their programs. A systems thinking approach regards social, environmental and economic factors as necessary components of the problem solution. Because it is a whole systems approach it also encompasses sustainability. We have integrated systems thinking in the following ways; 1) new material has been included into key courses (e.g. the first-year introductory and senior design courses), 2) a sequence of three related environmental and transportation systems courses have been included within the curricula (i.e., Introduction to Systems, Decision Making, and Modeling), and 3) service-learning (S-L) projects have been integrated into key required courses as a way of practicing a systems approach. This culminates in the senior design course in which many of the projects specifically focus on sustainability. A variety of assessment methods have been implemented as part of our reform including student surveys, focus groups, faculty interviews, and assessment of student work. We specifically designed a survey tool that addressed sustainability understanding (both open ended and Likert scale). The survey was given to first-year first semester (FYFS) civil and environmental engineering students, FYFS environmental science students, and senior civil and environmental engineering students. Approximately 50% of the incoming civil and environmental engineering students could not define or give reasonable examples of what sustainability means, while their counterparts in environmental science showed that almost 100% could provide a good definition and provide reasonable examples of sustainability. However, by the end of the introductory course in engineering, the majority of the engineering students had a good working definition of sustainability and examples. Female students in both groups showed a statistically significantly higher interest in learning about sustainability than their male counterparts. © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education.
© 2011 American Society for Engineering Education
Rizzo, D. M. (2011, June), Incorporating Systems Thinking and Sustainability within Civil and Environmental Engineering Curricula at UVM Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18134