Engineering, Meaning and Faith:  Professional Formation of Engineers with Magnitude and Direction


Engineering, Meaning and Faith:  Professional Formation of Engineers with Magnitude and Direction

Michael McGinnis, Ph.D., Dean, LeTourneau University

3:30 p.m., September 14, 2023   |   140 DeBartolo Hall

Training engineering students is challenging, and this challenge is reflected on both the student and teacher side of the learning relationship. The National Academy of Sciences (2018) has concluded that “engineering education must continuously adapt,” and identified several shortcomings of the current engineering education paradigm. Students and teachers should both ask: “What is the purpose, and what are the desired outcomes of an engineering education?” Furthermore, this basic question is being asked in the midst of an environment in Western culture with measured declines in interpersonal connection and corresponding increases in anxiety, depression, loneliness and despair (CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Harvard Study of Adult Development).

The seminar provides a model for educating engineers that addresses these issues and frames them across the three key areas that should be developed for a modern engineer: a strong technical foundation; a varied and comprehensive exploration of those skills necessary to build relationships with other people (e.g. communication, leadership, grit, motivation, ethics, etc.); and finally an appreciation for the meaning and purpose behind engineering and design decision making. The authors make an argument for the importance of faith in the development of engineers and the practice of engineering, positing that faith provides an anchor to meaning and purpose and that without these, technical and relationship skills cannot be properly developed. The model is anchored in teaching and learning theory and practical examples for application are provided.

Dr. Michael McGinnis has over 15 years of experience at two different universities teaching engineering and mentoring students. He was an Associate Dean and a Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Management at the University of Texas at Tyler where he also served as an award winning faculty advisor for the ASCE student chapter and Concrete Canoe Team. Prior to his time at UT Tyler he worked for nearly five years designing nuclear submarines at Electric Boat Corporation. He currently serves as the Dean of Engineering and Engineering Technology at LeTourneau University.