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RE: ASCE News Structural Community......

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I agree that stronger academic preparation is a good idea.  I also
believe that some of this strength can be obtained in an undergraduate
program.  However, I would not suggest "reduc[ing] the number of
'politically correct, academically questionable, structurally useless'
classes in the universities" or "ditch[ing] the humanities courses."

I believe that the amount of general coursework required for a BSxx
degree is entirely appropriate.  Starting with high school graduates,
the university first has to make "humans" and then make them into
engineers, scientists, etc.  I embrace the reality that our technical
lives have become more specialized.  However, I don't much enjoy
working with one-dimensional technicians.  Instead, I believe that the
time spent in an undergraduate civil engineering program could be more
wisely directed.  Many C.E. students have a clear vision of their
preferred area of practice.  Those students should be permitted more
latitude in selecting a body of technical coursework that will prepare
them for their practice.

In my undergraduate program (about 10 years ago), required coursework
included structural essentials such as statics, dynamics, mechanics of
materials, drafting (hand and CADD), civil engineering materials,
structural analysis, matrix methods, computer use, steel design, and
concrete design (some of these courses are optional at some schools).
Of course there were a raft of other general civil courses.  However,
I was able to convince my department chair to allow me to substitute
graduate-level structural courses for two of the general civil
courses.  By going to school every summer after my freshman year and
carrying an extra class during most semesters (in addition to working
as a drafter/lab tech 25-30 hr/wk) I was also able to work in 3
additional graduate-level structural courses and graduate one semester
early.

Some students are not willing to ask for exceptions and some
departments won't grant them.  That's why I believe that programs
should be adjusted to allow selection of technical courses from a menu
of options rather than mandating technical coursework in every branch
of civil engineering.  That way, while being technically specialized,
engineers can also be humans who read literature, appreciate the arts,
and enjoy the life that exists beyond button pushing in a cube farm.

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Michael Valley, P.E., S.E.                   E-mail: mtv(--nospam--at)skilling.com
Skilling Ward Magnusson Barkshire Inc.              Tel:(206)292-1200
1301 Fifth Ave, #3200,  Seattle  WA 98101-2699      Fax:        -1201


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