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Tuesday 26 September 2023,

Riley-Seminar-022514Engineering and Social Justice
Donna Riley, Picker Engineering Program, Smith College

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014
9-10 a.m.
Schwada Classroom Office Building (SCOB) 101 [map]

Traditional conceptions concerning professional ethics for engineers focus narrowly on the decisions and actions of individual professional engineers, leaving little room for meaningful public participation. A social justice framework is helpful for opening up the conversation to the public and to the ethics of organizational or societal level questions about engineering and technology. Questions such as who benefits and who bears the cost of technology in society come to the fore, and create a reflexive moment for engineers to critique and re-imagine our own practices.

As an example of this critique and the new directions that might be created through the social justice lens, this talk will consider the case of the Grand Challenges of Engineering put forth by the United States’ National Academy of Engineering. By examining the process of how these global priorities for the profession were identified, how they were justified, and the proposed processes for meeting the challenges, engineers might envision a new set of processes for determining more socially just ends for engineering, as well as more just means for achieving those ends.

Reframing the issue of participation in engineering as an issue of public ethics in a social justice frame similarly leads to a critique of current discourse around underrepresentation of women and minorities and points to direct conversation and action to dismantle exclusionary systems of power and privilege in the profession of engineering.

Donna Riley is an associate professor and a founding faculty member in the Picker Engineering Program at Smith College, the first U.S. women’s college to house an engineering program. In 2005, she received a National Science Foundation CAREER award on implementing and assessing critical and feminist pedagogies in engineering classrooms. She holds a B.S.E. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Riley’s books include Engineering and Social Justice (Morgan and Claypool, 2008) and Engineering Thermodynamics and 21st Century Energy Problems (Morgan and Claypool, 2011). She is currently serving as deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education and as program director for Engineering Education at the National Science Foundation.


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