Sustainability in Engineering Education: A Grounded Theory Analysis and Identifying the Critical Competencies of Engineering Doctoral Education Using a Global Perspective

Event Date: February 10, 2011
Speaker: Ranjani Rao and Jiabin (Emily) Zhu
Speaker Affiliation: Department of Communications, Purdue University and School of Engineering Education, Purdue University
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: ARMS B071
Contact Name: Demetra Evangelou
Contact Phone: 494-4158
Contact Email:

Presentation 1:  In this work we explore how the idea of introducing sustainability in the engineering curriculum raises questions with respect to the boundaries of engineering. In our quest to understand sustainability’s place in engineering we also investigate broader debates surrounding the question of what engineers ought to be doing. We present results from a grounded theory analysis of 42 articles out of a database of over 150 from publications such as the Journal of Engineering Education, International Journal of Engineering Education, European Journal of Engineering Education, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education and others. Three major themes including; sustainability as ammunition for the future engineer, (in) disciplined sustainability andsustainability as engineering conscience, emerge encompassing seven smaller themes.   This presentation is an extension of Ranjani Rao’s 590 final paper that explored the connections between sustainable engineering and eco-feminist philosophy. Co-authors: Ranjani Rao, Stephen Hoffmann, Alice Pawley.This work is supported by NSF-IEECI #0935066.

Ranjani Rao is a doctoral student in Organizational Communication in the Department of Communication at Purdue.  She earned her masters in Media, Technology and Society from the same department in 2008. Prior to joining Purdue, Ranjani worked as a journalist with Indo-Asian News Service in New Delhi, India after completing her BA (Honours) in Economics from Delhi University and Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. 

As a graduate research assistant on the Assessing Sustainability Knowledge (ASK) project, Ranjaniis engaged in helping develop a framework to assess sustainability knowledge in engineering undergraduate students, mapped on to expert views and literature thatcan help engineering faculty members identify and structure essential sustainability-related content and develop methods to bring these concepts organically into courses across the curriculum.

Ranjani’s research explorations in communication have included media and family communication, work-family dynamics and qualitative and feminist research methods in engineering contexts. Her master’s thesis looked at media coverage of child abuse and neglect in the context of the Greater Lafayette Journal and Courier’s coverage of the 2005 Aiyana Gauvin case. An excerpt of her thesis work was presented at the 4th Annual Stop Child Abuse Summit in Lafayette, IN in April 2009.

Presentation 2:  Over the past decade, there has been a greater awareness of the trans-national and cross-cultural nature of the engineering profession. Globalization is not a concept, but a reality. In the discussion upon the relationship between globalization and higher education, Altbach (2007) defined globalization as “the economic, political, and societal forces pushing 21st century higher education toward greater international involvement”. Doctoral education plays a key role in producing critical innovations and technological advances, and engineering Ph.D.s are often considered to be leaders in the process of research and innovations. Doctoral education, therefore, encounters further challenges in producing the leading workforce-Ph.D.s for knowledge-based economies globally. This ENE 590 project seeks to understand the following research question—“How are the critical competencies of engineering Ph.D.s that engineering doctoral education should produce defined across different cultures/countries?” As an exploratory effort, this project focuses on U.S., Australian, and European perspectives by reviewing related literature and reports on the goals or learning outcomes of engineering doctoral programs from these countries or regions. Future work based upon the findings is presented.

Jiabin (Emily) Zhu is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She obtained a B.S. in Physics from East China Normal University, a M.S. in Optics from Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and a second M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Purdue University. Her primary research interests relate to comparative study methods and frameworks in engineering education, global engineering, professional development and mentoring of engineering graduate students.