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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Bridging Engineering and the Liberal Arts: A Course in Designing Progress

Richard Barke, Dr Gena Abraham.

An experimental course was developed to bring students from the liberal arts and from the technical disciplines (engineering, science, and computing) together to share an inquiry into the intersections between technology and society. In this seminar on "Designing Progress, Defining Progress," students and their instructors (from social science and civil engineering) addressed the fundamental assumptions that underlie the concept of progress, and how the concept affects their education, their future careers, and modern society. The course was used to examine the relationships among the many dimensions of progress (e.g., economic, technological, moral, artistic, scientific) in the US and other cultures. Students also examined the process of design across multiple disciplines, searching for commonalities and differences in the design process in architecture, engineering, public policy, music, the visual arts, and poetry. The connections between design and progress a central focus of the course. In this seminar, civil engineering students were matched with liberal arts students to develop designs for the construction of buildings, for public policies, and other tasks; they experienced the challenges of problem definition, concept operationalization, and design communication and execution in several fields. By exploring many of the elements of design across a range of problems, students learned how the processes of design relate to broader goals such as "progress." Students engaged in deep interdisciplinary learning, they dismantled stereotypes about people and methods in different disciplines, and learned to relate short-term practical projects to larger social goals and objectives.


Richard Barke  (United States)
Associate Dean
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts@
Georgia Institute of Technology

Richard Barke received a B.S. in Physics from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Rochester. He has taught at the University of Houston and as a visiting scholar at the University of Gent, Belgium. He has been a consulta nt on science and technology policy for the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, several Chinese science agencies, the US Department of Energy, and Eastman Kodak. He has served as Chair of the School of Public Policy and elected as chair of the Executive Board of Georgia Tech. He currently serves as associate dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Tech. His research interests include higher education policy, science and technology policy, and the politics of science.

Dr Gena Abraham

  • Engineering
  • Liberal Arts
  • Design
  • Progress
  • Interdisciplinary Teaching
  • Active Learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)