Work in Progress: Personalizing Engineering Ethics through the Individual Stories of Engineers and People Impacted Conference Proceeding uri icon



  • Engineering ethics is grounded in the responsibility of engineers for human safety and welfare. Traditional approaches that introduce the code of ethics or present case studies often emphasize the collective actions of engineers and their impacts on society broadly. In fact, many of the engineering disaster case studies take a very numerical approach, rather than sharing the stories of individuals who have been harmed and naming the engineers responsible. An alternative teaching approach is to bring in the personal stories of both individual engineers and the people who have been impacted by engineering in positive and negative ways. This personal approach may be more effective in activating emotions and aligns with Bratton’s (2004) Model of Affective Morality and Scholl et al.’s (2016) core affect model. Further, emotional responses may be heightened by seeing the individuals tell their own stories rather than reading text-based narratives. The collective and individual perspectives embedded within the teaching methods for engineering ethics that the author has integrated in civil/environmental engineering courses for undergraduate students are shared and critiqued. Individual examples from the perspective of engineers include: the personal story of Marc Edwards who fought for communities exposed to lead in drinking water in both Washington DC and Flint Michigan, moral exemplars from the Online Ethics Center (William LeMessurier, Fred Cuny, Inez Austin), and an interview with Jack Gillum (a structural engineer who lost his P.E. license due to the Hyatt-Regency walkway collapse). Individuals from the public who have been negatively impacted by engineering and/or engineers have been given a voice via a video from a panel with five members of different communities (Lena Young-Green, Albert P. Naquin, E. Yvonne Lewis, Robert Miranda, Sydney Brown) and interviews with individuals injured in the Hyatt-Regency walkway collapse. Evidence for the impact on students from teaching methods that focused on personal stories in comparison to depersonalized approaches is demonstrated using reflective statements from students and survey results. It is believed that including personal stories when teaching engineering ethics holds promise for impacting the ethical awareness and reasoning abilities of students.

publication date

  • June 26, 2022

Date in CU Experts

  • October 25, 2022 1:44 AM

Full Author List

  • Bielefeldt A

author count

  • 1