Development of a Mission Statement

Nolan Van Gaalen

Engineering Department
Dordt College
Sioux Center, Iowa 51250

Preamble and Introduction

As the conference steering committee explored possible themes for the 1999 CEEC, we thought it desirable for participants to have opportunity to share something of their own institution''s stated views on the meaning and purpose of their educational programs. It was hoped that in sharing experience from various campuses in developing their mission statements or in revising their engineering curricula on the basis of expressed statements of purpose, not only would we learn more about a process which has become increasingly important in this era of assessment-oriented accreditation, but just as importantly, we all would learn and appreciate more about each other as co-laborers in higher education dedicated to the Kingdom of Christ.

A well thought-out and carefully-crafted mission statement is critical to the successful functioning of a Christian engineering department, but only if such a statement has living biblical roots and is kept alive by conscientious effort of its members. This paper discusses the development of the Dordt College Engineering Department Mission Statement and the associated curriculum objectives which have guided our recent program revision (to be phased in with the coming freshman class.) It begins the discussion, however, by raising some matters of more general interest related to the formulation and value of mission statements.

Mission Statements - Passing fad or Positive trend?

Some of us have perhaps become tired of the ""fad"" of making mission statements. We''ve seen them everywhere it seems: in business advertising and correspondence, academic brochures and annual reports, and even in our church bulletins. Perhaps you know a family that has one too. Sometimes catchy and succinct, and sometimes not, these proclamations of vision and goals can either inspire us or make us feel cynical and weary.

As stand-alone statements, many of them (especially the shorter ones) seem too broad or vague to offer clear direction in critical cases. Those of us who have been involved in writing them may have grown jaded of seemingly endless discussions to sort out the common ground and the central purpose and then to state it concisely and usefully. I recall an elder on our church council asking how the statement we were working so hard to produce was actually going to affect the way we made decisions and accomplished things in the congregation and around the neighborhood. At times like this, we may wish for a pastor, a company president, an academic dean or a department chair to simply tell us what our mission and objectives are, and then we''ll get on with it and quit wasting time on the elusive goal of a concise, yet meaningful and effective mission statement with which everyone fully concurs.

Christians and their institutions might be inclined to ask ""what more do we need than the ''great commission'' of Matthew 28 as a mission statement?""

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt. 28:18-20)

Yet we realize that a school is not a church, a family, a business, or a political party, all of which are called to bow themselves to the authority of Christ and work for the coming of his Kingdom throughout the world. But we do have different roles and gifts to use in our areas of responsibility. So Matt 28 is good, but we need more specificity to define our educational task. Perhaps academics could cite Phil. 4:8, which was and still is the motto of the University of Alberta:

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things."

Christian educators may want include verse 9, Paul''s advice and benediction:

"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Here we have a statement that academics can warm up to, haven''t we? It urges both thought and action, theorizing and practice, with good curricular breadth and due respect for authority of experts, along with the assurance of divine favor as we do our work. We certainly can''t say it is too long, or staid, or boring! The whole constituency can agree on this, and who could argue that it isn''t scriptural enough?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1

Ah! But here someone may nervously ask ""what would ABET think?"" We do need a statement that includes some more obvious reference to educational objectives that can be translated to measurable student learning outcomes. This is certainly part of the point of ABET''s ""two loops'' assessment diagram, shown in Figure 1.

Thus, the faculty of an engineering department like yours may indeed desire to write an appropriately worded mission statement, but not want to be hindered by the (time consuming!) advisement of the administration, or by the critique of other departments, or of students and alumni. It also requires time and effort to arrange for input from the supporting community, perhaps represented by the board of trustees, and from the employers of graduates, possibly represented by an industrial advisory board. While it seems to me that the faculty are perhaps the ones called (by virtue of their roles as scholars and teachers) to lead this effort, they must certainly not neglect considering the larger constituency which they serve. Note again that ABET also recognizes this. In its Engineering Criteria 2000, ABET requires accredited programs to document that they provide for input from a wider variety of stakeholders, and that they act upon that input. But more on that a bit later...

Mission Statement Formats and Functions

Let''s step back for a moment. In itself, perceived pressure from an accrediting agency can not be sufficient reason to do something that isn''t necessary or desirable for more fundamental reasons. Why should we be careful about developing and using our mission statements? It may help to review why companies make the effort to write mission statements. Corporate rationales and styles vary. Some statements appear to express particular quality or performance goals in order to impress or reassure customers. Or they may state some competitive operating strategy to direct and guide the employees and to communicate a positive corporate image to others. However, ""an authentic mission isn''t a bronze plaque in the office lobby,"" according to Allan Cox, writing about corporate mission statements in a article titled ""Linking Purpose and People"" in the March 1996 issue of Training and Development. Rather, he says, ""an authentic mission statement is drafted by top management, using information from teams throughout the organization that have engaged in guided introspections in order to identify hidden, positive root values that the organization does live by."" Its main message is for the people who work there daily.

Cox quotes the work of professors Collins and Porras of the Stanford Business School, who suggest that ""high performing companies are distinguished by being in touch with their own authenticity - a quality one might call ''soul.''"" Organizations that function well, and that are adaptable to and resilient in a changing environment, have a ""soul-based mission"" that highlights root values and names a shared purpose for all members of the company. These companies can then quickly determine the ""core competencies"" and an overall strategy.

He recommends that a mission statement ""should be a brief but compelling statement of purpose, uniqueness, and method -- 75 crisp words or less. And most critical is that the first sentence be short, inspiring, and memorable."" Next, the statement should answer questions about how the organization understands the needs of the customer, the products and services it offers, and how it provides these to customers. Fairhurst, Jordan, and Neuwirth (1997), researchers in the area of organizational communication, seem to concur. Their article in the Journal of Applied Communications Research cites others who suggest that most mission statements are composed of three parts, namely purpose, principles (or values), and future path (or vision).

Others suggest that two separate statements make sense: a vision statement and a mission statement. One example of a firm with both of these is AMBAC International of Columbia, South Carolina. As reported by B.P. Sunoo in April 1996 in Personnel Journal, this company''s vision statement is ""Working Together, We Can Do Anything."" Now this sentence is certainly bold and succinct. What does it tell you? Perhaps, this firm has focused on its need for teamwork as the priority issue to be reminded of as it does whatever it does day in and day out.

But we don''t yet know what it really does. That is revealed in its ""mission statement:""

We are a full-service precision manufacturing company oriented toward the supply of fuel injection systems, equipment and peripheral devices. We will continually improve our products and services to meet our customers'' needs. We will also ensure a rewarding work environment for our associates, and provide a fair return for our investors.

Here we see a mission statement that answers all of the questions posed by Mr. Cox. We now have an idea of the company''s product lines, we hear about its explicit orientation to quality improvement, and we hear its stated commitment to fair rewards for the workers and the investors. However, the short, inspiring, and memorable part is the vision statement.

In the same Personnel Journal article, John M. Noel, president of Noel Group in Stevens Point, WI, is quoted as saying he thinks that many corporate mission statements provide little inspiration to employees. He does feel they become valuable if everyone in the company understands them or is involved in their formation. He too distinguishes between vision statements and mission statements. The vision statement is ""big picture thinking with a little bit of soul,"" indicating the direction of the firm and giving daily inspiration. ""Mission statements should articulate the principles that will guide the corporation to grow, advance and prosper."" Answering questions akin to those suggested earlier, each department in the Noel Group has worked on its own mission statement (with feedback from others) to direct its relations with customers, co-workers and suppliers, and to clearly explain its products and services.

Keeping Mission Statements Alive

There has been, then, much evident optimism about the role of mission statements, as expressed by industry executives such as those quoted previously. Yet, among those who research organizational development issues, there is apparently a broad sense that the development and implementation of such statements has, for the most part, failed. Fairhurst, et al. (1997) state that many researchers, including the Stanford Business professors mentioned earlier, conclude that most mission statements are boring and essentially worthless, having little or no real impact on organizational performance. While they also cite one mission statement as exemplary, and suggest that such positive expressions can serve as a balance for other more restrictive corporate codes of ethics, they conclude that many mission statements may ""lack clarity, relevance, salience, truthfulness or representativeness, inspiration and/or engagement by management"" especially when they get to the ""shop floor"" level.

They summarize the discussion of the reasons for this ineffectiveness by offering two general conclusions about how a mission statement can become an empty set of platitudes. The first is that mission statements generally suffer from under-communication. They are often not incorporated into the daily, even hourly, activities of the organization. The statement thus begins to be viewed as ""little more than window-dressing, not a set of useful, identity shaping ideas that members can use to weather chaos and turbulence in the environment."" Lacking frequent communication of the organizational identity with both its members and external audiences, these authors conclude, there is little opportunity to foster discussion about who and how it wants to be, and ""the countervailing forces of the environment are more likely to prevail.""

Here I can not help thinking about James T. Burtchaell''s thesis in his The Dying of the Light, a study of the mostly sobering history of several selected faith-based colleges in America. He makes the point that the countervailing forces of the surrounding culture have indeed diluted and negatively impacted the distinctiveness and effectiveness of many educational institutions originally founded in the name of Christ, many times because the stated mission was not understood, debated, or appropriated fully by boards, administrations, faculties, students, staffs, and /or the larger supporting communities. Burtchaell is interested in the health of our common vision, I believe, and he is in that sense a prophet well worth reading.

A second conclusion Fairhurst et al. come to is that mission statements can be effective when leaders work to weave them into even the most routine aspects of the organization''s work, thereby making them personally meaningful to others. This ""managing the meaning of the mission statement"" is the activity by which they distinguish ""leaders"" from ""managers"" who pay most attention to how things get done. The authors then go on to an interesting discussion of the results of their own research into factors that influence some persons to actively manage the meaning of their organization''s mission statement and so become effective leaders. They end by elaborating some implications of their findings. Their most important, it seems to me, is that organizations should encourage debate among all relevant stakeholders about aspects of the mission statement and its possible future practical outworkings because this can lead to better effectiveness in the present situation. Of course, there is a risk of change in the mission, the vision, the core values, or the implementation of these within the organization. But not keeping the document and the sense of calling alive in this way often means that it gets shelved in the press of the internal and external demands of the day.

Role of Mission Statements in Assessment and Accreditation

Much of the foregoing serves as excellent rationale for all of us to enthusiastically embrace the advice of Dr. David Holger, an Associate Dean of the College of Engineering at Iowa State University and a member of its Department of Aeronautical Engineering & Engineering Mechanics. He served as a participant in a pilot visit to Georgia Tech in the fall of 1997. At the 1998 ASEE meeting in Seattle, Holger spoke about the team''s conclusions in light of ABET''s Engineering Criteria 2000 requirements. He emphasized that under EC 2000, ABET is really asking us to explain what approach we take to defining the mission, the objectives, and the outcomes of our programs. We are being asked about who is involved in this, how we execute that mission, and how we assess the outcomes and make changes to improve. He emphasized that we need to involve all of our stakeholders in significant parts of the ""Two Loops"" process (see Figure 1), including the formulation and/or revision of our department mission statements and the determination of curricular goals, as well as the establishment of measurable outcomes. Institutions will need to document these interactions and the action items that result. Failure to do so will certainly be cited by ABET as a program weakness to be corrected. I think this fits with the foregoing conclusions of the management and communication theorists. He concluded by emphasizing that ABET intends to be more open to unique approaches so that institutions may have opportunity to pursue the goals important to them, but it wants proof that all appropriate constituencies have been meaningfully involved in the discussion.

So welcome (and record) the debate! Get your existing mission statements and your program''s curricular objectives into the hands of as many interested parties as soon as you can, and make it easy for them to provide comment or questions as feedback. Consider the statements of your college and of other departments as context for your department''s statement, and be willing to engage them in discussion of your program''s objectives. The engineering education community has never been so open to letting us define our unique missions as Christ-centered engineering programs, but it insists that we don''t do this in isolation from our larger context. In short, we are being encouraged now to document our efforts in sharing and developing the vision in consultation with our supporters and with those we serve most directly.

The mission statements of Dordt College and THE ENGINEERING Department

Recognizing now that we will be looking at a statement that must be constantly subject to reformation so that our department''s work is effective and obedient in its calling within the kingdom of Christ, here is our mission statement:

The Dordt College Engineering Program seeks to provide serviceable insight in the field of engineering from a distinctively Christian perspective; in a manner that demonstrates the unity of creation and rejects the classic polarizations between technical and humanities, vocational and liberal arts, or natural and spiritual; while demonstrating the highest possible quality of undergraduate teaching, which we understand to be, most fundamentally, the enabling for Christian discipleship.

(Underlining for emphasis is mine, to point out our three ""answers'' to Cox''s earlier questions.)

As we note the key components in the above statement, it will be useful to examine its context and origins within the whole college. Dordt College was founded in 1953 as the Midwest Christian Junior College with the primary purpose of addressing the critical shortage of qualified teachers for the Christian schools in the area. In 1956, the institution adopted its present name, and it offered a 2-year program until in 1965, the first 4-year BA students graduated. Rapid growth in the 60''s and 70''s, followed by some slight enrollment declines through the eighties and new growth in the 90''s, brought many additional programs and a larger staff and student body to the campus. The college now has approximately 1450 students, about 75 faculty members and a variety of programs such as agriculture, social work, engineering, and business administration, as well as many of the usual liberal arts and science majors.

Our engineering department has about 115 majors and 4 faculty members (with some help from our two colleagues in Physics). We offer a mechanical and an electrical emphasis within a general engineering major accredited under ABET''s criteria for ""non-traditional"" programs. The basis and motivation for the Dordt College Engineering Program is our awareness of the calling we have as God''s covenant people, standing in the tradition of the Reformation, to bring every area of life under the lordship of Christ. As it is expressed in the college''s present statement of purpose titled The Educational Task of Dordt College, we are to

"train Kingdom citizens [to be] aware of the demands of the cultural mandate, equipped to take their place and carry out their tasks within the community of believers, able to discern the spiritual direction of our civilization, and prepared to advance, in loving service, the claims of Christ over all areas of life."

The potential breadth of scope for the curriculum is apparently quite unlimited:

"One goal of the College is to identify those occupational areas where serviceable insight is increasingly needed. In principle, no legitimate profession, occupation, vocation, or station in life can be precluded from Dordt''s educational concern. Wherever insight is required, there Dordt College is called to supply it."

Context of the colleGE'ge'=s statement

A word about process and the involvement of the ""stakeholders"": The college''s present statement of purpose was completed and finally adopted in 1996. The Educational Task of Dordt College supersedes and extends the previous Scripturally Oriented Higher Education, a 1968 document with a more philosophical-sounding title. Our current ""mission statement"" is not short, though we like to think that it still inspires! A ""Purposes Committee,"" composed of members of the board, the faculty, and the administration, worked together to draft the chapters of the document and to receive feedback from the college community. It includes a discussion of the biblical basis and Reformed religious commitment of the college. It explains the structure of the college as a community of office-bearers with differing responsibilities, and it outlines the nature of authority within this institution. It offers general criteria for implementing curricula and adopting new programs based on the need for ""serviceable insight"", and it sets forth the college''s commitment to academic freedom within the bounds of the Word of God and obedience to Christ. (It apparently did not have as its goal a ""succinct, inspiring, and memorable"" leading sentence!)

The previous references to ""a reformational Christian perspective"" and to ""standing in the tradition of the Reformation"" means that every element of the Dordt College Engineering Program is (or is intended to be) rooted in a particular Christian worldview and nourished by an identifiable Christian philosophical tradition. That tradition believes the Bible to be the Word of God, and finds the writings of historic, sixteenth century Calvinism to be helpful in effectively using the ""glasses"" of Scripture to view God''s creation. Following a reformational ""revival"" during the nineteenth century in the Netherlands, that Calvinist tradition was further articulated by Christians such as Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer and Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper, a pastor who also served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands for some time, founded the Free University in Amsterdam. Two professors there, Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd, expressed and taught this Reformed tradition in terms of a Christian philosophical system. Working from that system, Hendrik van Riessen and Egbert Schuurman have laid the groundwork for a Christian philosophy of engineering and technology. Schuurman''s book, Technology and the Future, and the 1986 publication by the Calvin Center for Christian Studies, Responsible Technology, have been the most helpful statements of that philosophy to date. Part of the mission of the Dordt Engineering Department is to contribute to that philosophical tradition.

Technology, and, in particular, the profession of engineering, refers to an area of life where the redemptive healing of the gospel is sorely needed. The problem of energy consumption and stewardship, cited in a number of places in The Educational Task of Dordt College, exemplifies the need for biblically directed serviceable insight in an area where failure of the various denominations of naturalism, humanism, and economism has already been tangibly experienced. The ubiquitous but directionless proliferation of computer technology represents another area crying out for meaning and direction. We see our task as that of training Christian engineers who can address tomorrow''s technological problems and bring the healing and the claims of the Kingdom to a misdirected and suffering world.

Elaboration of the mission in our curriculum:

A more specialized document, adopted by the college in 1993, The Educational Framework of Dordt College provides further elaboration of how we desire to organize and implement curricula in our academic programs, as well as in our co-curricular activities and campus life. In a manner consistent with a reformational Christian perspective, it offers four coordinates around which to build a coherent curriculum and to assess student outcomes. These coordinates are labeled ""religious orientation, creational structure, creational development (unfolding), and contemporary response. This ""framework document"" is an important part of how the college presently ""manages the meaning of its mission."" The college has developed and used a detailed Course Goals Inventory based on these coordinates to study how its various courses and programs fit into the total mission. Table 1 shows how the department''s present curricular goals ''plot'' onto this ''coordinate'' system. (I suspect this nomenclature may have something to do with the fact the chair of the General Education Committee is a mathematician.) These categorizations of our goals give a clearer idea of what the coordinate labels mean. The intent is that these coordinates are not separable, but all apply concurrently to our programs and courses. Courses may emphasize one or several of the coordinates more than others, and every course should be designed with this coordinate frame in mind.

Finally, the department has also developed and debated a longer list of specific curricular goals which begin to lead us to some measurable student outcomes based on the overall mission of the department and the college. (See Table 2.) In our recently adopted proposal for a curriculum revision, we suggested 18 specific changes to our existing program based on these newly reformulated general and specific goals. We had the benefit of considerable feedback from several years of graduating classes. We engaged in some intense discussions, even disagreement at times, with colleagues in other departments and with our administration, before the proposal was accepted.. In the future, we do need to more actively engage employers and our graduates in similar discussions about our mission and about the details of our program, and we need to document this process more explicitly.

Conclusion

I believe that Dordt''s mission statement is well-rooted in scripture and in a biblically based philosophical tradition, which is still vibrant in its supporting community, though subject to and tested by an influential postmodern and hedonistic culture. The mission statement is ""alive"" in our organization, and the challenge will be to continuously incorporate its meaning not only as we plan the broad contours of our programs, but also and especially as we do the detailed teaching in each one of our courses. Dordt''s curricular framework is one tool with which the institution seeks to ""manage the meaning"" of its mission statement.

References

ABET. Engineering Criteria 2000. Available WWW: http://www.abet.org

Burtchaell, J.T. (1998). The Dying of the Light : the disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publ. Co.

Cox, A. (1996, March). ""Linking Purpose and People"". Training and Development, pp. 67-68.

Dordt College. (1996). The Educational Task of Dordt College.

Dordt College. (1997). The Educational Framework of Dordt College.

Dordt College Engineering Department. (1998). ""Mission Statement and Goals"". Program Review and Curricular Revision, pp.5-9.

Fairhurst, G.T., Monroe, J.M., and Neuwirth, K. (1997). ""Why are we here? Managing the Meaning of an Organizational Mission Statement"". Journal of Applied Communication Research, 25, 243-263.

Sunoo, B.P. (1996, April). ""Weighing the Merits and Vision and Mission Statements"". Personnel Journal, p.158.

 

Appendix

Mission Statement

The basis and motivation for the Dordt College Engineering Program is our awareness of the calling we have as God''s covenant people, standing in the tradition of the Reformation, to bring every area of life under the lordship of Christ. In particular, and as expressed in The Educational Task of Dordt College, we are to ""train Kingdom citizens [to be] aware of the demands of the cultural mandate, equipped to take their place and carry out their tasks within our civilization, and prepared to advance, in loving service, the claims of Christ over all areas of life."" ""One goal of the College is to identify those occupational areas where serviceable insight is increasingly needed. In principle, no legitimate profession, occupation, vocation, or station in life can be precluded from Dordt''s educational concern. Wherever insight is required, there Dordt College is called to supply it.""

Technology, and, in particular, the profession of engineering, refers to an area of life where the redemptive healing of the gospel is sorely needed. The problem of energy consumption and stewardship, cited in a number of places in The Educational Task of Dordt College, exemplifies the need for biblically directed serviceable insight in an area where failure of the various denominations of naturalism, humanism, and economism has already been tangibly experienced. The ubiquitous but directionless proliferation of computer technology represents another area crying out for meaning and direction. We see our task as that of training Christian engineers who can address tomorrow''s technological problems and bring the healing and the claims of the Kingdom to a suffering world.

""Standing in the tradition of the Reformation"" means that every element of the Dordt College Engineering Program is rooted in a particular Christian worldview and nourished by an identifiable Christian philosophical tradition. That tradition believes the Bible to be the Word of God, and finds the writings of historic, sixteenth century Calvinism to be helpful in effectively using the ""glasses"" of Scripture to view God''s creation. Following a reformational réveil during the nineteenth century in the Netherlands, that Calvinist tradition was further articulated by Christians such as Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer and Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper founded the Free University in Amsterdam, where two professors, Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd further articulated the tradition in terms of a Christian philosophical system. Working from that system, Hendrik van Riessen and Egbert Schuurman have laid the groundwork for a Christian philosophy of engineering and technology. Schuurman''s book, Technology and the Future, and the 1986 publication by the Calvin Center for Christian Studies, Responsible Technology, have been the most helpful statements of that philosophy to date. Part of the mission of the Dordt Engineering Department is to contribute to that philosophical tradition.

Thus the Dordt College Engineering Program seeks to provide serviceable insight in the field of engineering from a distinctively Christian perspective; in a manner that demonstrates the unity of creation and rejects the classic polarizations between technical and humanities, vocational and liberal arts, or natural and spiritual; while demonstrating the highest possible quality of undergraduate teaching, which we understand to be, most fundamentally, the enabling for Christian discipleship.

Table 1. General Program Goals

In harmony with and guided by The Educational Task of Dordt College, The Educational Framework of Dordt College, and the report, Renewing Our Vision: A Strategic Plan for the 1990=s, the Dordt College Engineering Program seeks to enable appropriately talented Christians to acquire the following:

1. Religious Orientation

a. Worldview. A sufficiently developed Christian worldview whereby students internalize the conviction that their occupation is an important element of their religion; i.e., their calling and opportunity to serve the Creator, fellow humans, and the non-human creation, empowered by the Spirit of Christ.

2. Creational Structure

a. Preparation for Industry. A capacity for technological problem-solving and design so that the student, upon graduation, may immediately begin work as an engineer, either in a large industrial enterprise where specialized on-the-job training is provided for new employees; or in the smallest of companies, where responsibility for design decisions is immediately given.

b. Preparation for Graduate School. A general engineering education with sufficient technical (mathematics, natural science, engineering design) understanding so that the student may continue his or her education at the graduate level.

c. Passion. Enthusiasm and intellectual excitement when contemplating the creation structure, the prospect of new technological discoveries, and the opportunities for meaningful design.

3. Creational Development

a. History and Philosophy. An understanding of the historical and philosophical roots and problems associated with Western science and technology.

4. Contemporary Response

a. Perseverance. The enthusiasm, and perseverance required to complete the full, bachelor degree, engineering program, in the face of weak high school preparation and/or cultural forces that tend to cause typical freshman engineering students to quit engineering.

b. Holism. A general, broad, and holistic education that actively thwarts the traditional technical-humanities dichotomy, meaningfully unifies all aspects of the curriculum, and starts the student on a path of life-long, self-initiated learning, whether in engineering design, the humanities, the natural sciences, or the social sciences.

c. Gospel. A sensitivity to the need for redeeming technology, i.e., bringing the redemptive healing and direction of the Gospel to this increasingly important area of modern life.

d. Distortions. A sensitivity to current problems associated with technology such as the already mentioned technical-humanities dichotomy, the enslavement of technology to economics, the dehumanization of many work environments by inappropriate technology, technophilia: the faith that technological development is always good and will solve humanity''s problems, and technophobia: the fear that technology is an autonomous and evil force that will destroy humanity.

e. Normativity. A dedication to the concept of ""appropriate'' or ""responsible"" technology supported by an awareness of current environmental/ecological problems and founded on the biblical principles of Christian stewardship.

f. Justice and Mercy. An awareness of the need and possibilities for using appropriate technology to ""act justly and love mercy"" by helping to solve the problems of developing nations and the poor in all parts of the world.

g. Community. A vision for a community of Kingdom-committed engineers, scientists, industrialists, etc., who become a light in the world by developing normative technological models and living normative lives.

Table 2. Specific Curricular Goals

The specific curricular goals enumerated below serve to facilitate the achievement of the general goals described in Table 1 above.

1. All curricular experiences ought, to at least some extent, enable the engineering student to develop his or her Christian worldview. Some specific courses ought to focus on worldview, particularly because of the ubiquitous belief, even among Christians, that one''s religion has little to do with one''s technical vocation or with technology in general.

2. The curriculum ought to enable the student to overview his or her academic experience, understand the relationship of its parts to the whole, and its relationship to the student''s life as a whole. To this end, experiences that provide thorough grounding in neo-Calvinist philosophy as well as critical understanding of modern philosophical trends ought to be woven throughout the curriculum.

3. The curriculum must have a strong, foundational component that enables the student to appreciate the numerical and spatial aspects of the creation and to develop the mathematical abilities needed for modern engineering design. This will include the following components:

a. A thorough facility with algebraic, geometric, and trigonometric manipulation.

b. An understanding and competence in differential and integral calculus.

c. The ability to solve differential equations.

d. A basic understanding of vector calculus.

e. A problem-solving facility with elementary linear algebra.

f. An acquaintance with probability and statistics so that the student may approach engineering design and analysis from either a deterministic or stochastic viewpoint.

g. The ability to use the computer as a professional tool.

h. Knowledge of other elements of advanced calculus (e.g., Laplace transforms, complex variables) to the extent that they are useful in particular engineering design situations that are studied (e.g., control systems, mechanism analysis).

4. The curriculum must have a strong, foundational component that enables the student to appreciate the physical aspect of the creation and to develop the natural scientific insights needed for modern engineering design. This will include a thorough, calculus based grounding in elementary physics and chemistry that includes both theoretical (classroom) and empirical (laboratory) components.

5. The curriculum ought to enable the student with the opportunity to learn about the biotic and sensitive aspects of the creation and must enable the student to appreciate the interwovenness of those aspects with others in the context of engineering design.

6. The student''s capacity for critical thinking ought to be strengthened by all the elements of the curriculum. Although logical analysis is foundational to courses in mathematics, natural and engineering science, and engineering design, the student ought to be provided with the opportunity to study logic in a formal sense as well.

7. The curriculum ought to enable students to develop appreciation for the aesthetic dimension of creation. Aesthetics ought to be understood as integral to the engineering design process, the student ought to develop the ability to appreciate aesthetically qualified cultural artifacts, and the student ought to have opportunity to exercise and exhibit aesthetic creativity.

8. Enabling the student''s communication abilities must be a significant part of all curricular experience. These abilities must include public speaking, listening, reading, writing, and graphical forms of communication.

9. The student''s appreciation of the social and economic aspects of creation ought to be developed. This requires that the student have opportunity to study those aspects in dedicated courses, but also that the social and economic dimensions of engineering design be stressed in appropriate engineering courses. In addition, the social dimension of the engineering profession ought to be experienced by the student. This requires that opportunities to be active in professional societies and to engage in departmental and college-wide social activities be provided. The student ought to learn to appreciate the broad, stewardship meaning of economics, and, as mentioned above in A4d, become sensitive to the distortions of economism.

10. The curriculum ought to enable students to develop understanding of the juridical, ethical, and fiduciary aspects of the creation, in abstraction, in general, and with reference to these aspects of engineering design. In addition, students should develop a commitment to the communal task of building models of normative technology with respect to these aspect of the creation.

11. The curriculum ought to enable students to understand the history of Western thought, and in particular, the history of science and technology. That knowledge should help students to know their places and tasks in the dynamic unfolding of creation in time, what has been called the cultural mandate.

12. All engineering students ought to gain a basic understanding of engineering science. Engineering science includes the foundations of such topics as mechanics, analog and digital electronics, thermodynamics, materials engineering, linear systems, and automatic controls.

13. All students ought to develop their talents in engineering design. This must include both classroom work and a senior design project experience. The classroom work ought to cover general engineering design principles as well as design in at least one specialized area.

14. Students choosing the electrical engineering emphasis ought to learn sufficient electromagnetic field theory, analog and digital electronics, and power systems analysis so that they may do entry level design or graduate work in engineering. In addition they ought to have the opportunity to study one of those areas, or others, such as communications systems, at a more specialized level.

15. Students choosing the mechanical engineering emphasis ought to develop their understanding of mechanical systems, thermal-fluid systems, and materials so that they may do entry level design or graduate work in those areas. In addition they ought to have the opportunity to study in one of those areas at a more specialized level.

16. All students ought to have the opportunity to experience the industrial workplace firsthand during their undergraduate years. Thus a formal internship component ought to be part of the curriculum.

 

 


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2000, Christian Engineering Education Conference
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