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March 29, 1985 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-29
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(Continued from Page 3)
Each industry representative em-
phasized, however, that engineering
students' technical knowledge is still
the basis of much of their work.
T he origins of the need for engineers;
who can communicate effectively go'
back several decades in a field which
has traditionally emphasized a highly-
specialized science and math
According to John Ryder, an
engineering professor and dean for
over 40 years who traced the history of
the profession in Spectrum magazine in
November, 1984: "the years from 1900
to 1930 were stagnant years in
engineering education - years in which
engineering education did not really
progress. The need at the time was not
for knowledge in depth but for mn with
practical skills who could do practical
Omer Allan Gianniny, an engineering
humanities professor at the University
of Virginia, says in Engineering
Education's November, 1982 issue that
the issue of "inclusion of humanities in-
to the curriculum to broaden the
engineer" was first proposed by the
Wickenden study of 1929.
Widespread discussion of this report
led to the formation, in 1932, of the
Engineers' Council for Professional
Development, which began setting
minimum accreditation standards
nationally for the engineering
curriculum. In 1980, the council
changed its name to ABET (Ac-
creditation Board for Engineering and
"Since the early 1900's, the
engineering college's philosophy has
changed," Ryder's article concludes.
"They now realize they are training
students in the use of their minds,
rather than in the use of their hands and
tools as in the stagnant years."
This change in philosophy can be at-
tributed to a number of democraphic,
economic, and technological factors.
One prominent change in the
engineering field is the pool of in-
creasingly well-qualified students.
"Traditionally, engineering students
have come from largely blue-collar
backgrounds," Vest says. "They were
particularly interested in the technical
aspects of the field and may not have
had as broad an interest in other aspec-
ts of the world as LSA students.s
"In the last few years," he continues,
"demographic evidence has shown that
a large number of engineers have
headed towards -law school, medicine
and other professions. We've been at-
tracting enormously well-qualified
students with increasing abilities and
"Since the students increasingly have
more diverse interests and backgroun-
ds, it likely follows that they have an in-
creasing interest in liberal arts. The
new types of students definitely helped
trigger this growing emphasis on
liberal arts."
A survey of 4500 engineering alumni
from the University, obtained from
Prof. Stevenson, shows that many
engineering students are indeed bran-
ching off into other professions. Of the
4500, 1160 said they are currently not
employed in an engineering discipline.
According to the University ad-
missions office, the quality of

engineering students has increased
dramatically in recent years. In 1975,
the percentage of freshmen who
graduated in the top one percent of
their high school classes was virtually
equal in LSA and Engineering - 11
percent in engineering and 12 percent in
LSA. By the fall of 1983, however, the
figure has increased to 21.8 percent in
engineering, compared to only 11.6 per-
cent for LSA.
The gap between the two schools is
wider in the number of students from
the top 10 percent of their high school
classes. In 1975, LSA actually attracted
more of these top students (58 percent
to 50 percent) but by 1983 the

'If our students are narrowly educated in a
technical sense, it will greatly hamper
them. The breadth of their humanities
backround will help them greatly'
- Prof. Wilfred Kaplan,
Curriculum Committee member

engineering figure had increased to 76
percent, while LSA dropped to 56 per-
Interestingly, verbal SAT scores are
also slightly higher for Engineering
students than for their LSA counterpar-
ts. The median verbal score for
students entering the University in the
fall of 1983 was 570 for Engineering, 550
for LSA. In 1984, engineering held at
570, while LSA improved to 560.
Roy Mastic believes that engineering
students today are very goal-oriented,
well-trained technically, and very
oriented toward today's world. They
react very quickly today; if they see
demand dropping off in one particular
field, they'll switch to another one.
They see engineering as a chance to
have an excellent job, a comfortable
lifestyle, and to make a contribution to
Vest attributes the increasing quality.
of engineering students to recent
economic factors.
"In the past 5-6 years, I think we've
begun to have a national awareness of
the general problems in productivity,
withathe recessions and the problems in
the automotive industry in particular.
In response to this, people began to see
engineering as a real part of the
national challenge. This began to give
engineering and applied sciences a
much more attractive image in the
public mind and attract more highly-
qualified students. Industry found itself
in a competitive situation; standards
went up."
Doug Thomas, manager of recruiting
activities at General Motors, says that
"in the last three or four years, with the
explosion of technology, our needs have
shifted to far higher quality talent than
before - particularly in the manufac-
turing field. The quality of the student's
academic program has to be there, but
our ability to infuse technology into the
manufactuing process depends on how
well engineers can communicate with
the people using the equipment, many
of whom won't be engineers."

phasizes creativity over analysis."
According to Mastic, "40 years ago,
engineers often found themselves,
working in a lab without com-
munication with the outside world.
"Now they have to give presentations,
with regulatory agencies like the EPA
and the Department of Natural Resour-
ces. The business is much more com-
plex and the curriculum has to change
to prepare students for that."
Mastic focuses on a key question ; are
engineering curricula providing
students with the broader verbal and
written skills they now need? Evidence
shows that engineering students are en-
tering higher education with superior
verbal skills. Do they still have these
skills when they graduate?
ABET's minimum requirement in the
Humanities and Social Sciences for a
University to be considered accredited
consists of one half year of a 4-year
program - exactly 12% percent. I.C.
Goulter of the University of Manitoba
thinks this is insufficient.
"Philosophically, it is generally
agreed that ABET's humanities and
social sciences requirement is an at-
tempt to produce engineers with a
breadth of vision that encompasses
both the purely technical aspects of
their careers and the social consequen-
ces of their actions," Goulter writes in
the January 1985 issue of Engineering
"Does the completion of such
minimum Humanities and Social
Sciences requirements imply that the
courses will achieve the stated objec-
tives? Such an assumption is without
In a- December 1984 article in
Engineering Education, Richard Cun-
ningham, who served as ABET's
president from 1978 to 1980, concludes
that "most engineering and technology
graduates lack experience and skills in
written and oral communication. The
requirement of one half year of
humanities and social sciences is a
noble but badly flawed characteristic of
engineering educaton. We can and

Duders,,At points to the new
technology that has revolutionized
production as having necessitated in-
creased creativity for engineers. In a
lecture he gave this year at Hope
College on "The Future of Engineering
Education," he said that technology -
particularly the computer - functions
,as a "lever for the mind."
"The computer unleashes the
student's creativity," he said, because
it does the "dog work that engineers
used to be forced to do - picking a
design and spending days analyzing it.
"Now an engineer can explore many
designs at once - which demands a
generalist, not as a specialist. This em-

should be doing a better job of teaching
those subjects."
Dr. Edward Gilbert also provided
estimates on this subject for the con-
ference on teaching techinical and
professional communication. He said:
"at the management level', the
technical professional is a poor com-
municator and interpreter of his or her
work. Too often, the technical
profesional feels little accountability
for bridging the communications gap to
management, to decision processes,
and to the user of technology." ;
A recent Harris Poll survey of over
2000 on-the-job engineers asked how the
undergraduate engineering curriculum
should be changed.
Engineers responded that they wan-
ted to increase communications cour-
ses most (64 percent) followed by
systems engineering and science, and
business/management courses.
The University's College of
Engineering requires 24 credit hours in
humanities and social sciences, to be
distributed among English composition
(4 credits) which will be taken in LSA
starting next fall because of the
elimination of the engineering
humanities department, senior
technical communications (3 credits)
and general humanities (17 credits).
This amounts to 19 percent of the
student's total courseload of 128 credit
hours, almost six percent higher than
the ABET minimum.
But Duderstadt says "our education
is far too narrow and doesn't serve our
undergraduates well. In some of our
programs, the students are so pinned
down with technical courses that if they
have an interest in psychology or
philosophy they don't have the time to
explore that.
"Our students have better verbal
skills than LSA students - at least
coming into the University. Whether
they leave with stronger verbal skills
can be seriously debated. My suspicion
is they don't. Our student's com-
munications skills aren't strong
Panos Papalambros, a professor in
mechanical engineering, says he "finds
a lot of graduating engineers who don't
know how to write well or talk well -
they're very limited."
"They're very narrow in the way they
think - they're forced to be to survive
in such a competitive program."
Mathematics professor Wilfred
Kaplan, a non-voting member of the
college's Curriculum Committee,
agrees that "If our students are
narrowly educated in a technical sense,
it will greatly hamper them. The bread-
th of their humanities background will
help them greatly."
"I think engineers coming out of the
University of Michigan are first-rate
relative to other top-flight engineering
schools," said Prof. Stevenson.
Stevenson believes engineers are
graduating with "substantially im-
proved communications skills" that
enable them to write "instrumentally
effective documents." He is referring
to technical writing, what he calls "an
engineer writing in his role as an
But, he adds, "an engineer doesn't
only exist in his role as an engineer. He
exists in a public role and at times has
to function independently of
engineering. It's in this public role that
I don't think we've trained engineers as
well as we might. Engineers have to
exist in a broad societal context - they

R,_ U N
Director Milos Forman and author Peter Schaffer
decide to envision Mozart as a nineteenth century
equivalent of a talented but clownishly tem-
peramental pop star. The idea is refreshing, but the
execution lapses into just so many cheap laughs. Just
close your eyes and enjoy the soundtrack. At the
Movies at Briarwood, Briarwood Mall; 769-8780.
Dubious Disney adventure-romance about two
scientists (Sean Youn$ and William Katt) who
befriend an orphan brontosaurus. Any similarities to
Bambi, Dumbo, and E.T. must surely be coinciden-
tal. At the Wayside, 3020 Washtenaw Ave.; 434-1782.
Eddie Murphy goes through his usual fast jiving,
smart ass routines in this moderately amusing
thriller/comedy about a streetwise Detroit cop who
goes to California to investigate a friend's murder.
Tihe script is just a sketchy outline, existing solely for'
Murphy to improvise around. Murphy's antics are
cute, even if they're strictly lowbrow. The laughs are
fast and plentiful, but lightweight, and you're always
aware of just how shabbily slapped together the
whole film is. At the Movies at Briarwood, Briar-
wood Mall; 769-8780.
Writer-director John Hughes (last of Sixteen Can-
dles) takes~a bleak look at coming of age in modern
suburbia. The film centers on five kids, of diverse
background locked up together in the high school
library for a Saturday afternoon detention. As the,
day progresses, the kids drop their guards and feel
each other out, sharing their mutual frustrations and
fears. A curiously bitter script, fatally flawed by
melodramatic hyperbole and stereotypically stiff
ch'aracters who act tortured but are devoid of any
real feelings. This is like an amateur play, written
and put on by a high school English class that has
just finished reading a Eugene O'Neil play. Very sin-
cere, but not particularly thoughtful. At the .4te
Theater, 231 S. State St.; 662-6264.


John Schlesinger's thriller-drama about two
California youths who conspire to sell CIA secrets to
the Soviets is based on a true story but it is not
presented very convincingly. Sean Penn and Timothy
Hutton play the two boys, but their mechanical per-
formances fail to bring any believable depth tovtheir
characters. Disappointing schtick. At the Movies at
Briarwood, Briarwood Mall; 769-8780.
Umpteenth variation on the psyclio-stalking-teens
scheme. At the State, 231S. State; 662-6264.
A marvelously imaginative comedy about an
African bushman who mistakes a Coke bottle that
falls from an airplane as a dropped trinket of the
gods, and decides to try to return it. The laughs are
pure slapstick, but ingenious and relentless. The
newest cult classic in town and deservedly so. At the
Movies at Briarwood, Briarwood Mall; 769-8780.
Biblical epic starring Richard Gere, directed by
Bruce Beresford (of Breaker Morant fame). At the
Movies at Briarwood, Briarwood Mall; 769-8780.
Motown musical fantasy with a martial arts
theme. You figure that one out. At the Fox Village,
375 N. Maple; 769-1300.
Peter Bogdonavich's variation on the Beauty And
The Beast theme. It's transplanted in California,
but this time it's about a pill-popping biker mother
and her monstrously deformed son. Bogdonavich
avoids all the Elephant Man metaphors and symbols
about ugliness to concentrate on a small, very witty
film about human resiliancy in the face of despair.
The film is warm and engaging; really a pleasant
surprise. At the Ann Arbor Theater, 210 S. Fifth
Ave.; 761-9701.
Phillip Borsos directed this unthrilling thriller
about a newspaper reporter (Kurt Russell) who finds

Comedy about a small town boy caming of age in
the 1950's. At the Fox village Theater, 375 N. Maple;
Earnest adaptation of George Orwell's classic
about a future dystopia. Director/writer Michael
Radford stays respectfully close to his source
material, and has the sense to realize that the only
way to do this is to film it as a period piece. Unfor-
tunately, Radford just doesn't have enough skill to
bring the nightmare to life with real intensity.
Despite all the grimness, you can sit through this
film safely detached. Features John Hurt and
Suzanne Hamilton in two very fine performances. At
the State, 231S. State; 662-6264.
In the British ruled India of the 1920's, a young
English woman accusses a respected Indian doctor
of attempted rape. A finely crafted, often compelling
study of the darker corners of the human soul. At the
Movies at Briarwood, Briarwood Mall; 769-8780.
Second sequel to the highly successful, endlessly
insipid Porky's. Need you be warned? At the Fox
Village. 375 N. Maple; 769.1300.
Woody Allen's latest film, a romantic fantasy
about a Depression-age housewife (Mia Farrow)
whose only respite from the bitterness of life is to
escape into the local movie house and live out this
weeks musical or adventure. One day a character in
one of the films (Jeff Daniels) looks down into her
eyes, and decides to jump out of the screen into her
life. Somewhat gimmicky, and sentimentally
manipulative but it has more than a few moments of
truly enchanting sweetness and wit. Definitely wor-
thwhile. At the Movies at Briarwood, Briarwood
Mall; 769-8780.

himself in the web of a psycho-killer. Not par-
ticularly suspenseful, and full of cheap thrill effects.
Also stars Mariel Hemingway. At the Fox village
Theater, 375 N. Maple; 769-1300.

Reissue of the
Lucas' space ope
reached this film,
ts but left out the
the original Star
tially a remake
without the wit o
you feeling tired:
3020.Washtenaw A
S. University: 434
and his rock sing
directed by Hal A
Briarwood Mall;
Two college fr
and Daphne Zuni
romantic comed
Spinal Tap). At
Adolescent me
of a big inner ci
Theater, 375 N. Na
Harrison Ford
uncovers an ext
from within the a
into the Pennsyl
an Amish farmi:
Peter Weir succc
and elevates it to
of the richest innm
Very highly reco
wood, Briarwood
The Movies a
which films woul
Call 7698780 to c

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4 Weekend/Friday, Marchr29, 1985


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