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Virginia Tech Develops Engineering Ethics Curriculum
September 10, 2008

Does the responsibility of an engineer cease after providing professional advice or does it involve additional advocacy? Consider such questions as whether oil fields should be established on the North Slope of Alaska or whether a renewed effort should be undertaken to build nuclear power plants. Should a dam be built that would help prevent flooding but severely impact the environment? Should robots be built that would increase manufacturing efficiency but put large numbers of people out of work?

Virginia Tech faculty members from engineering, business, and philosophy posed the question of responsibility in a proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish an interdisciplinary graduate curriculum in engineering ethics.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $300,000 for the first three years of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Liberal Engineering Ethics Curriculum (GILEE). Virginia Tech is collaborating with Politecnico di Milano in Italy and Jadavpur University in India, which will assist in introducing global perspectives into the curriculum. North Carolina A&T State University, one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and the University of Illinois at Chicago will test courses developed by Virginia Tech. Graduate course offerings will begin at Virginia Tech during the spring semester, which begins Dec. 1st, 2008.

The proposal was facilitated by Virginia Tech’s new Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE), whose mission is to strengthen the university’s competitive position in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

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