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College of Engineering

Engaging Engineers in Development - College of Engineering (Fall 2015)


Engaging Engineers in Development - College of Engineering (Fall 2015)

Client Profile

Engineering has been offered at the University since 1873, when Notre Dame became the first Catholic university in the country to have a school of engineering. In fact, Notre Dame boasts a long history of engineering developments in a variety of fields … from the construction of the first hand-driven wind tunnel in America (aerospace) and the successful transmission of one of the first wireless messages (communications) in the country to the discovery of a new class of actinyl peroxide compounds (energy) and demonstration of magnetic logic (computing).

When the College of Engineering was officially founded in 1920, most of the students were pursuing civil engineering, due to the nation’s need for surveyors and designers of roads, bridges, and railroads. Today, graduate and undergraduate students continue to explore a wide variety of fields through the five departments housed within the college as they search for ways to address some of society’s most pressing needs.

  • Number of Teaching and Research Faculty: 169
  • Number of Undergraduate Students, Sophmore-Senior: 1,214
  • Number of Incoming First-Year Students: ~500
  • Number of Graduate Students: 521

Definition of Problem

Undergraduate engineering programs are typically demanding programs with multiple requirements.  Notre Dame’s undergraduate program is extremely technically demanding.  A number of engineering students, for example, have wanted to pursue the rigorous training of the engineering program while taking advantage of other options, such as the university’s undergraduate minor in International Development Studies or training in human-centered design and design thinking.  At times, they have been unable to take advantage of these options because of the large number of required courses. Notre Dame is currently engaging in a curriculum review where, among other things, some of the traditional requirements are being re-examined in hopes of making space for other opportunities for students.  One area of interest is providing more “soft” skills that directly impact the work of engineers in addressing complex problems of great social importance. Some of these “soft” skills include design thinking, human centered design, negotiation skills, social and political analysis, and more.  

Initial Steps and Options

  • Work closely with Jay Brockman and Tracy Kijewski-Correa, as well as engineering graduate student advisors Erik Jensen and Kevin Fink (who are in the master’s program in civil engineering at ND) to define more clearly the project and proposed outcome.
  • Identify and analyze other undergraduate engineering programs that have done a good job providing this kind of training (for example, with engineering programs in international development or “humanitarian engineering” or others).

Definition of Success

A clear analysis on best practices nationally and internationally, as well as opportunities and constraints in thinking about ways to enhance Notre Dame’s current engineering curriculum.