Humanitarian Aspirations of Engineering Students: Differences between Disciplines and Institutions
AbstractThis study explored the aspirations of undergraduate engineering students in regard to helping others, examining potential differences between disciplines and institutions. Over 1900 undergraduate students from 17 U.S. universities responded to a survey in spring 2014. In open-ended responses, 15.5% of the students included some form of helping people and/or the world as one of the factors that motivated them to select their engineering major; for 6.7% of the students this was the primary or only motivating factor listed. Helping as a motivation was not equally prevalent among different engineering disciplines, being much more common among students majoring in biomedical, environmental, materials, and civil and less common in computer and aerospace. Different disciplines also varied in the priority for helping people relative to other future job factors - highest in chemical/biological, moderate in civil and related majors, and lowest among electrical/computer and mechanical. Institutional differences were found in the extent to which students indicated an importance that their career would help people and the extent to which an ability to help others was a central message in their major. The results indicate the percentages of engineering students who are most likely to embrace humanitarian engineering; fostering these aspirations in students could help with attraction and retention.
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