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March 29, 1985 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-29
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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have to be skillful speakers.
"Class sizes are immense. Chemical
Engineering classes and many others
have close to 100 people per/section.
How much opportunity is there in a
class that big for a student to get up and
present his design? We're graduating
many students who have been up in
front of an audience only once in a
technical writing course - many
students hay> told me this. If we're
graduating students who haven't had
the opportunity to speak, we're doing
them a disservice."
Prof. Rane Curl, the head of the
'Curriculum Committe, thinks the
college's humanities and social scien-
ces requirements "do a pretty good job
within the constraints. He added that he
feels University engineers graduate
with enough verbal and communication
ability to land them top jobs in
management.
"Technical competence - that's
what industry is looking for," Curl said.
They hire engineers to carry out a
techinical job. The top students are the
ones the interviewers concentrate on."
Professor Will Bigelow, another
Curriculum Committee member, said
he "doesn't believe the engineering
college is in the business of providing a
liberal education - we're in the
business of providing a technical
education.
"A lot of humanities is simply
studying the past. The past is behind us.
Why would anybody rather study the,
past than the future? Your future is
going to determine what your life is
going to be.
"I don't think we have to apologize
for what we're doing," he added.
Bigelow pointed out that "there are a
lot of LSA students who haven't had a
significant science course. I don't think
our students are any more unbalanced
than they are. Anybody can sit down
and develop their own political opinion
without guidance, but not anyone can
sit down and work out a ther-
modynamics problem."
Prof: Stevenson also mentioned what
he considers the scienticfic inadequacy
of some LSA students. "The stereotype
is often that engineers are unfamiliar
with literary works and the world of
science and art, but at the same time
there are liberal arts students who
don't know the very basics 'of
technology. It cuts both ways."
Craig Love, the chief engineer for
Chrysler Corportation and a recruiter
on the University campus said that
Michigan engineering graduates are
"the same mixed bag you expect to find
anywhere. Some are detailed
technicians, very interested in specific
aspects pf engineering. I don't think we
have a major problem, but there are
people whose communication skills are
not what they should be.
"There are some foreign students
who go through the program at the
University of Michigan and I can har-
dly understand what they're saying.
Your'program is making progress, but
there is still a lot to be done."
Mastic said that the "quality of the
engineering clas at U of M is excellent
overall," but'that graduates are "not
always well prepared verbally.
"I see some Michigan graduates who
just go to school and get involved in
nothing, who have 4.0 but have no
ability to communicate or sell them-
selves. Right now there's probably not
a lot of room in the program for a
youngster to broaden out. When.I went
through the University I didn't have

enough of the Humanities - I just
didn't have enough time." Mastic
graduated from the University in 1954.
ill Duderstadt, Vest and those who
spat them sioceed in broadeirg the
engineering curriculum?. The battle
lines are now being drawn.
According to Duderstadt, the
engineering college h'as already taken
two specific steps to broaden that
curriculum.
"We decided last fall to encourage
those students who aren't sure about going
into engineering to begin their
education in LSA. We relaxed the tran-
sfer requirements - someone can now
transfer into engineering at the end of
their freshman year (as opposed to
sophomore year in the past) and the
necessary GPA is lower.
"LSA has become a very attractive
option for people who want a broader
education before engineering," Duder-
stadt said.
To facilitate this option, he added, the
college is working on a Combined
Degree Program with LSA, which
would resemble the medical school's in-
teflex program. The program - which
is only in the planning stages - would
involve co-admitting students to LSA
and engineering, giving them un-
dergraduate and graduate credit after
5-6 years in both.
A tentative model, Duderstadt said,
is for the student to spend three years in
LSA, another 2-3 years in engineering,
and then recieve an LSA degree, an
engineering degree, and an engineering
graduate degree.
"Dialogue has already started with
LSA and they seem very interested,"
Duderstadt said.
LSA Associate Dean for Long-Range
Planning Jack Meiland confirmed that

modest cutting back in the number of
technical courses.
"I'd certainly be receptive to con-
sidering expanding the humanities
credits we require. I'd like to see more
humanities in the curriculum, but we
are studying what courses we would
have to trade for this."
Everyone involved - educators and
industry recruiters -.agrees that cut-
ting an engineer's technical
requirements to make room for more
humanities will be extremely difficult.
"I'd like to see what Duderstadt's
proposal is. All majors are very tight
with 128 credit hours," said Prof .Curl.
Any change in curriculum would have
to be approved by the Curriculum
Committee.
"I'd like to evaluate proposals on
their merit, but I support the present
requirement of 24 humanities and
social science credit hours.
"The present requirement was con-
sidered at great length, and there has
not been any discussion about expan-
ding it further," Curl said.
"I don't know what else can be done
outside of minor adjustment of what we
have to yield technical competence
along with some breadth, some general
education."
Curl pointed out that increasing
humanities credit hours might indirec-
tly violate ABET's minimum standards
by reducing the number of technical
courses.
"Any group that looks at the college's
curriculum will have to do it within
ABET's requirements. For some com-
panies, if an engineer doesn't come
from an accredited program, they
won't even consider him for a job."
Claude Beckham, ABET's Staff
Director for Accreditation Planning,

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'A lot of humanities is simply studying the
past. The past is behind us. Why would
anybody rather study the past than the
future?'
- Prof. Will Bigelow
Curriculum Committee member

LSA is interested in the program. "We
might be able to attract the very best
students - those who decide they want
both degrees, or maybe those who can't
make up their minds.
"If we can get the program worked
out properly, it would strengthen
liberal arts education for engineering
students," Meiland said.
"Many of us want- to increase the
Humanities requirements," Duder-
stadt said, "but with a program of at
least 128 credit hours it's a problem.
"Our students don't write nearly
enough. As it stands now, they write
very little until their senior year. That
has to change. In technical courses, for
example, lab' reports should be
evaluated on the quality of writing as
well as the technical content."
"Humanities are very important to
engineers now and their importance is
rapidly increasing," Vest said. "I think
it will eventually lead to at least a

confirmed that any attempt to increase
the University's humanities and social
sciences credits "would be no problem
- as long as they meet the minimum
requirements in the technical areas.
"If they fail to meet the minimum in
any one category, they won't get ac-
zredited," Beckham said.
He admitted that "Communication
skills is our biggest failing; it's a
distressing situation. The industry per-
ception of engineering education is that
people who graduate need better com-
munication skills. But we won't
sacrifice the technical knowledge for
better communication skills."
Chemical Engineering Prof. Scott
Fogler says he is "a little skeptical
about a more liberal education. If they
drop any technical courses, it's impor-
tant to teach students to learn on their
own after graduation - to develop life-
long learning skills.

8 Weekend/Friday, March 29, 1985

Weekend/Frida

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