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Cover of the Winter 2009 issue


VOL. 35, NO. 2






Certificate program to enhance engineers’
liberal arts education

With both the physical distance and differences in curriculum, UW-Madison engineering students and those in the humanities, arts and social sciences might feel like they attend different universities.

But in fall 2009, a few UW-Madison professors hope to show engineering students that they have a bigger place in the non-engineering parts of campus. The team has created a certificate program that will enable engineering students to fulfill their humanities breadth requirements via a series of related courses.

The Certificate in Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering and Society (ISSuES) is a new program offered by the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies. Not only will ISSuES help engineering students fulfill their liberal arts requirements, it also will give them coherent exposure to the social sciences and humanities in a way that emphasizes the relationship between science, technology, engineering and society. “Instead of taking these courses in smorgasbord fashion, we are being more intentional in terms of getting students to think about what courses may mean in a coherent group and then how they can build on each other,” says Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Jeffrey Russell, one of three certificate coordinators.


Students enrolled in ISSuES will:

The program enables engineering students to be selective with their electives and still stay on track.

Initially, ISSuES students take Where Science Meets Society (STS 201), a three-credit course that can give them the tools and language to approach the relationship between science, engineering and society in an integrated and interdisciplinary fashion. Students then complete 12 additional credits (typically four courses) chosen from one of four focus clusters:

Ethics—This cluster aims to give students the tools to consider ethical issues that surround engineering and science research and commer­cialization of the products of that research.

Leadership—This cluster concentrates on public policy issues that relate to science and engineering work and the widespread use of new technologies.

Design—This cluster aims to expose students to the aesthetic and social issues raised in engineering practice.

General—This broad cluster enables students to create their own emphasis in approaching the relationship between science, engineering and society.

Students in ISSuES choose a cer­tificate advisor who will help them select courses that simultaneously fulfill both the liberal elective requirements of their engineering majors and the Integrated Studies in Science, Engineering and Society certificate requirements.

Russell says the program is valuable because today’s challenges require solutions that combine the knowledge of several fields and disciplines. “The role of science and technology is much different than it was 25 years ago, because if you look at the scale of the problems we have: Looking forward, they are very significant,” Russell says, adding that the energy crisis, sustainability and water are some of the biggest issues. “That’s what we’re about. We educate leaders who are going to go beyond the boundaries of this institution and this state and actually make a difference in the world.”

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