ABout HE

Our mission is to educate engineers to serve communities by collaboratively identifying problems and providing solutions that are just, socially responsible, and sustainable.

Who we are

Why study it

The “WHy”

Why collaborate with communities? Our students learn to define and propose solutions jointly with the communities that they serve. Too often, interactions between engineers and communities rest under the assumption that engineers have all the knowledge, skills, and resources to solve problems for communities, which lack all of these. Such a perspective often gets in the way of effective solutions. Among other things, HE graduates understand and value the perspectives of affected communities, and then jointly propose and develop solutions with them.

What are just solutions? Just solutions contribute to more equitable distribution of opportunities and resources to enhance human capabilities while reducing risks and harms in a given community. HE graduates cultivate engineering practices, designs, artifacts, or systems that lead to just solutions to pressing challenges.

What are socially responsible solutions? The rapid rise of corporate social responsibility points to the importance companies place on good relationships with the communities affected by their operations. Socially responsible solutions enhance the wellbeing of communities and the environment while maintaining an organization’s profitability.

What are sustainable solutions? In the context of humanitarian engineering, we focus on local sustainable solutions that preserve or enhance communities’ economic diversity, political self-determination, and local ecosystems. Among other things, HE graduates co-develop with communities strategies for using energy effectively, conserving limited resources, and protecting biodiversity.

CONNECTING STUDENT PASSIONS WITH ENGINEERING

Many students choose engineering as a profession because the field offers the potential to transform the world, earn high salaries and social status, and solve some of the world’s most compelling problems. Yet after a year or two of engineering courses, many students feel that they have become number crunchers who are disconnected from the big challenges that initially drew them to the field.

Engineering, as a field of education and practice,

  • Has one of the highest student attrition rates and one of the lowest representations of women and racial and ethnic minorities of any field of study
  • Has one of the lowest representations in important fields of public service ,like policy, community development, education (teaching), social work.
  • Unfairly pushes people to split their lives between their technical expertise and their social interests and passions, like political activism, artistic expression, social service, etc.

Transforming Engineering Education

Our program has grown out of a desire to transform engineering education to prepare students to become powerful agents for positive change in society by putting social justice, responsibility and sustainability at the heart of engineering solutions and designs. We do this by teaching engineering students:

  • To define and solve problems WITH people who think differently than they do. 
  • To recognize that engineering problems, solutions, and applications are NEVER purely technical but are ALWAYS socio-technical in nature .
  • To create truly innovative solutions by integrating engineering and the social sciences, as found in our HE courses and our faculty mix.

Empowering Faculty 

Through our HE programs, courses and projects, faculty find opportunities to transform their teaching (thus enhancing student learning, retention and engagement) by

  • Becoming members of a community of practice that learns together, experiments with state-of-the-art pedagogies and content, and participates together in wider networks of engineering education reformers committed to social justice, responsibility and sustainability.
  • Creating, teaching and participating in courses and projects that connect the technical and social dimensions of engineering in very explicit and intentional ways, allowing themselves, and their students, to make engineering relevant to the world’s most pressing problems.
  • Closely interacting with alumni, outside experts, corporate officials, communities, and other intended users, in ways that keeps their teaching fresh and innovative.