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Policy Statement 463 - History and Heritage

 
Approved by the Committee on Advancing the Professional on November 6, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on March 13, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports programs that promote the knowledge of the history and heritage of civil engineering as an integral component of education and professional practice. ASCE believes that methods to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the history and heritage of civil engineering while enhancing the image of civil engineering include:

  • Encouraging civil engineers to be knowledgeable about the heritage of their profession, and where possible share this knowledge with engineering students, as well as other students, colleagues and the general public;
  • Focusing action at the national, state and local levels through support of history and heritage programs in ASCE and other professional organizations;
  • Encouraging civil engineering faculties to incorporate a history and heritage component into existing courses; and
  • Encouraging civil engineering programs to include historical perspectives in their Program Outcomes.

Issue

A vital component in the development of an individual as a professional is an understanding and appreciation of the history and heritage of one's chosen profession. To be effective, professional civil engineers should draw upon their broad education to analyze the impacts of historical issues on engineering and analyze the impact of engineering on the world.  The engineering design cycle illustrates the dual nature of this outcome.  In defining, formulating and solving an engineering problem, engineers must consider the impacts of historical events. As the content of engineering programs condenses to accommodate a school's graduation requirements, engineering departments and faculty members may find it very difficult to include specific course material related to historical issues. As a result, learning opportunities which expose a student's intellectual and professional development in areas such as history and heritage are often sacrificed.

The policy reinforces the objectives of ASCE Policy Statement 465 on Civil Engineering Education ("Raise the Bar") and the current edition of the Body of Knowledge which includes historical perspectives as an outcome. The Body of Knowledge addresses this issue by establishing fundamental educational outcomes and associated levels of achievement for specific stages of education or professional practice. 

Rationale

Knowledge of history and heritage helps communicate the importance of the civil engineering profession to society. Henry Petroski, noted engineering historian, stated that "the value of engineering history goes beyond its being part of the liberal education of an engineer. Engineering history is useful, if not essential, to understanding the nature of engineering; it also assists in the practice of the profession. We gain perspective across fields of engineering by knowing their various and interrelated histories. A historical perspective assists engineers in identifying failure modes and catching errors in logic and design. Engineering history, in short, is engineering as well as history." (International History and Heritage. 2001. ASCE, Reston, Va.)

ASCE Policy Statement 463
First Approved in 1997


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