Liberal Arts and International Studies Assistant (LAIS) Professor Jessica Smith and Postdoctoral Scholar Nicole Smith recently hosted a workshop for engineering professors who are integrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) into their courses. The workshop was sponsored by J. Smith’s NSF-funded project, “The Ethics of Extraction: Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility into Engineering Education.”
“The interviews we’ve been doing with Mines alumni clearly show that CSR is a crucial area of expertise that our undergraduates need to have,” said J. Smith. “It is important for them in their own career advancement, and is essential for their companies to maintain the social license to operate.”
President Paul Johnson said that the project “fits well with our broader university goal of ensuring that our students not only have a distinctive technical depth, but also a full understanding of the broader context of their impact to society and the complementary professional skills needed for success and leadership.”
"I’m proud that Mines is taking a leadership role in embedding CSR concepts into engineering and science curricula,” said Johnson. “Today, industry leaders are driving similar thinking into their company cultures to ensure their survival and prosperity."
College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Dean Kevin Moore added that incorporating CSR into the curriculum would help teach students of their own impact. “Ultimately the reason we engineer and work in applied science is to advance just solutions to the problems facing individuals, communities, and the world,” he said. “Because many of our students are employed by corporations, we want them to learn that even as employees, they can make a difference for people.”
Workshop participants included Mines faculty in the areas of humanitarian engineering, petroleum engineering and mining engineering; professors from the project’s two partner schools, Virginia Tech and Marietta College; Mines students; and members of the mining and oil and gas industries. By drawing on expertise from practicing engineers and community engagement specialists, project leaders are working on designing undergraduate educational experiences to help prepare students for potential CSR challenges and opportunities in their career.
J. Smith’s grant is one of numerous recent initiatives establishing Mines as a national leader in corporate social responsibility and engineering. In addition to the NSF grant, alumni donations have had a significant impact. “Thanks to the support and generous gifts from the Shultz family, CSR has become a crucial area of growth for the Humanitarian Engineering Program,” said Program Director and LAIS Professor Juan Lucena. “It distinguishes us from our peers, since we want to tackle the tough areas where communities and the extractive industries intersect.”
Mines now hosts an alumni interest group dedicated to CSR and a lecture series sponsored by the Shultz Fund. J. Smith’s CSR course was one of three Mines courses to be named an exemplar in teaching engineering ethics by the National Academy of Engineering, and the humanitarian engineering faculty have been invited to share their work with multiple international audiences, including the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility at the Copenhagen (Denmark) Business School and the National University of Colombia.
“It’s a thrill to see the momentum surrounding CSR building so quickly at Mines,” said J. Smith.
Workshops such as this one will continue to be offered over the duration of the four-year project, and the research team will continue to develop, implement and assess new strategies to effectively integrate CSR into the engineering curriculum.
View more photos from the workshop here or in the slideshow below.
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