Innovation Talk: Dean Nieusma

Innovation Bulb

Dean Nieusma

The "Integrating the Social and Technical in Engineering Education: Practical Challenges, Conceptual Barriers, Promising Responses" talk explores a series of experiments in engineering education that span course instruction, educational culture reform, interdisciplinary programming, and department identity building through a lens of “sociotechnical integration”—where social and technical dimensions of engineering are brought together as co-equal components of engineering practice.

It considers some of the specific practical challenges that arise around these integration efforts, the conceptual underpinnings explaining those challenges, and reflections on how institutions committed to rethinking their approach to engineering education might respond. To frame the analysis, Nieusma will employ a science and technology studies-inspired framework, “relations of expertise,” that emphasizes how authority in knowledge-based decision environments can dynamically shift when moving across disciplines, problem domains, and community settings.

He illustrates the framework with three instances where efforts to institutionalize sociotechnical integration break down: 1) co-teaching an integrated design studio; 2) engineering student encounters with “culture of ethics” programming; and 3) departmental identity building in a new unit comprised of faculty representing engineering, design, and social sciences. In each instance of integration, he considers orienting goals, mechanisms for achieving those goals, and notable outcomes that suggest social-technical integration requires more than adding disciplinary perspectives and mixing. He will draw the cases together by showing how a relational conception of expertise can facilitate integration across disciplinary approaches and lead to more coherent, more compelling educational outcomes.


Dean Nieusma is division director and associate professor of engineering, design, & society at the Colorado School of Mines. He received his PhD in science and technology studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and general studies from the University of Michigan. His research focuses on integrating social and technical dimensions of engineering in education and practice, with a focus on design and project-based learning. He is also broadly interested in the social and ethical implications of technologies and the application of engineering and design expertise to enduring social and environmental problems. He has received several awards and fellowships for research, teaching, and service, including a Fulbright fellowship (Sri Lanka) and, most recently, ASEE’s Olmsted Award for contributions to the liberal education of engineers.

Melissa Waite
Nov 27 2018 - 12:00pm
Memorial Union - La Paz
Tempe campus