, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 171-194
Date: 02 Oct 2009

Acclimating International Graduate Students to Professional Engineering Ethics

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Abstract

This article describes the education portion of an ongoing grant-sponsored education and research project designed to help graduate students in all engineering disciplines learn about the basic ethical principles, rules, and obligations associated with engineering practice in the United States. While the curriculum developed for this project is used for both domestic and international students, the educational materials were designed to be sensitive to the specific needs of international graduate students. In recent years, engineering programs in the United States have sought to develop a larger role for professional ethics education in the curriculum. Accreditation requirements, as well as pressures from the private sector, have helped facilitate this shift in focus. Almost half of all engineering graduate students in the U.S. are international students. Further, research indicates that the majority of these students will remain in the U.S. to work post-graduation. It is therefore in the interest of the profession that these students, coming from diverse backgrounds, receive some formal exposure to the professional and ethical expectations and norms of the engineering profession in the United States to help ensure that they have the knowledge and skills—non-technical as well as technical—required in today’s engineering profession. In becoming acculturated to professional norms in a host country, international students face challenges that domestic students do not encounter; such as cultural competency, language proficiency, and acculturation stress. Mitigating these challenges must be a consideration in the development of any effective education materials. The present article discusses the project rationale and describes the development of on-line instructional materials aimed at helping international engineering graduate students acclimate to professional engineering ethics standards in the United States. Finally, a brief data summary of students’ perceptions of the usefulness of the content and instructional interface is provided to demonstrate the initial effectiveness of the materials and to present a case for project sustainability.