– The cultural emphases of students’ engineering programs are directly related to their public welfare commitments and students’ public welfare concerns decline significantly over the course of their engineering education.
– The analysis suggests that engagement with public welfare concerns is not highly valued in students’ professional identities as engineers and that this engagement declines over the course of their engineering education. Among respondents who enter engineering jobs, interest in public welfare concerns does not return after they leave college.
– Cultural emphases (ethical and social issues, policy implications of engineering, general education, and writing skills) are perceived as less central to respondents’ engineering programs than ‘‘technical”
factors such as basic math and science skills or advancing scientific knowledge. It appears, in other words, that a culture of disengagement is in place at these schools and that this culture is related to students’ weak commitment to public welfare considerations.
– Surprisingly, even though the four schools represented in this sample have very different histories and missions, there is little variation in the public welfare beliefs of their students. Schools do vary by how strongly they emphasize engagement-related factors though. Yet, this variation in cultural emphasis does not readily translate into increases in students’ public welfare commitments.
– The consistency in the outcomes of the two pedagogically innovative schools with the more traditional programs also suggests a process of institutional isomorphism whereby even programs that
explicitly attempt to create a structure and culture that diverges from historical norms have difficulty doing so because of the need to be recognized as legitimate purveyors of knowledge (e.g., through accreditation).
– These findings also suggest that if engineering programs can dismantle the ideological pillars of disengagement in their local climates, they may foster more engaged engineers.
* Engineering major shapes attitudes towards social policy.