In “School for Wonks” [Prism, February,], there is an article about
engineering and public policy. The article correctly highlights the
issue of making engineers aware of the pervasive role of public policy
in their careers. Perhaps some of those engineers may even be excited
by the chance to apply their knowledge to shape the important technological
decisions being made at the federal, state, and local levels. You listed
Carnegie Mellon University as having the only undergraduate engineering
and public policy program in the United States. Technically, that might
be correct because of the title of the degree program. There is however
at least one other undergraduate program in the United States that prepares
engineers in a similar fashion. Lafayette College in historic Easton,
Pa., has offered a bachelor of arts in engineering since the 1970s.
The program is designed to prepare the graduate with fundamental engineering
and science skills, complement those skills with a core in engineering
policy and management, and allow the student flexibility to complete
an interdisciplinary suite of elective courses.
All graduates complete a three-course core requirement that includes
two sophomore-level introductory courses in engineering and public policy,
and engineering management. The third core course is a senior capstone
seminar in engineering policy where students apply analytical tools
to critique engineering policy decisions. Several of the elective courses
are interdisciplinary courses in subjects such as technology management,
energy technology and policy, environmental technology and policy, and
so on. Students from the traditional B.S. engineering programs (civil,
chemical, etc.) routinely take these courses as electives. The program
recently started an interdisciplinary design course titled Engineering
Policy and Design Project that involves an interdisciplinary group of
engineers from all departments working with some nonengineering students
on an open-ended real-world problem. In summary, more is needed, but
there are some schools that have been doing their part.
Sharon A. Jones.
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
“Opening a New Book [Prism, February] is an excellent and thought-provoking
article. I would caution that more liberal arts courses are not the
great panacea that corrects all evils in engineering education. On the
contrary, given enough liberal arts courses, engineers may fall down
to the plateau of respectability enjoyed by the profession that has
an overwhelming number of liberal arts majors—lawyers.
School of Engineering Technology
University of Maine-Orono