By Jason H.
As engineering students, we often get so caught up in the technical aspects of engineering that we forget about the impact that we are having on the society around us. In an environment that throws as many formulas as possible at you in a short time, students often forget to question why they are doing this or what effect this concept will have on people. That is why it is so critical for all engineering students to take this Engineering for Social Change class. Of all the engineering courses at the University of Maryland, this is the only course that implores you to take a step back and think about what impact you might be having on society. If all engineers had taken this course to prepare them for their careers, perhaps we would not be facing the incredibly overwhelming environmental and social challenges that we are today.
Throughout the semester, lecturers from wide-ranging career disciplines came to educate our class on certain topics such as waste, ethics, and social media, all of which had some relation to engineering. These lectures were eye-opening to an undergraduate engineer, and they certainly instilled a new driving force to dedicate a career towards creating positive social change. In particular, Virginia Tech’s PhD student Siddhartha Roy’s lecture on the “Flint Michigan Water Crisis” is a great example of a lecture that focused on the impact of ethics in the workplace. For that crisis to happen, many different engineers and workers had to turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of the Flint water supply, and if any of them had spoken up, perhaps that crisis could have been avoided. Overall, these lectures provided the entire class with both warnings from previous engineers mistakes and things that we should be mindful of as we progress in our careers.
The other aspect of the class that drove home the importance of understanding our impact was the selection of a non profit which specialized in mitigating some form of waste. The whole process was difficult, yet I believe that it will have a great impact on how many students of the class view the importance of nonprofits. Gaining the knowledge of selecting a non profit and being able to identify them as a well-run non profit rather than one that is solely in business for financial gain is a key tool for anyone who is looking to become a philanthropist. Also, seeing the impact that the Neilom Foundation’s donation will have on a local non profit is a great influence on students to become involved in philanthropy. In conclusion, Engineering for Social Change provided incredibly engaging and unseen insights into the social aspect of the engineering world and I highly recommend that every student engineer should partake in this class.