Inclusion of an Introduction to Infrastructure Course in a Civil and Environmental Engineering Curriculum
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Civil infrastructure refers to the built environment (sometimes referred to as public works) and consists of roads, bridges, buildings, dams, levees, drinking water treatment facilities, wastewater treatment facilities, power generation and transmission facilities, communications, solid waste facilities, hazardous waste facilities, and other sectors. Although there is a need to train engineers who have a holistic view of infrastructure, there is evidence that civil and environmental engineering (CEE) programs have not fully addressed this increasingly recognized need. One effective approach to address this educational gap is to incorporate a course related to infrastructure into the curriculum for first-year or second-year civil and environmental engineering students. Therefore, this study assesses the current status of teaching such courses in the United States and identifies the incentives for, and the barriers against, incorporating an introduction to infrastructure course into schools’ current CEE curricula. Two distinct activities enabled these objectives. First, a questionnaire was distributed to CEE programs across the United States, to which 33 responses were received. The results indicated that although the majority of participants believe that offering such a course will benefit students by increasing the breadth of the curriculum and by providing a holistic view of CEE, barriers such as the maximum allowable credits for graduation, the lack of motivation within a department—either because such a course did not have a champion or because the department had no plans to revise their curriculum—and a lack of expertise among faculty members inhibited inclusion of the course in curricula. Second, three case studies demonstrating successful inclusion of an introduction to infrastructure course into the CEE curriculum were evaluated. Cases were collected from Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and West Point CEE programs, and it was found that the key to success in including such a course is a motivated team of faculty members who are committed to educating students about different aspects of infrastructure. The results of the study can be used as a road map to help universities successfully incorporate an introduction to infrastructure course in their CEE programs.