College of Engineering News Room

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering undergraduate programs certified as Global Pathways

USF EWB Coastal Cleanup

Student members of USF’s Engineers Without Borders chapter partnered with Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful during the Fall 2019 semester to clean the Hillsborough River and Purity Springs Park.

by Russell Nay

This April, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s undergraduate programs were each certified as a Global Pathway, defined by university-wide initiative The Global Citizens Project as a "major or degree program that has significant global content” that provides “students with the opportunity to practice and apply global competencies.”

Faculty lead for the effort to certify both the Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and the new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering Professor Sarina Ergas said that global competencies are vital for many graduates of the program who pursue higher degrees or lead projects abroad in a variety of civil and environmental engineering disciplines.

“Whether it’s a student interested in water and sanitation in developing countries, pursuing international business opportunities, regulations and standards in other countries, graduate research, or international collaborations with other researchers, there are many ways global competencies are important to students in civil and environmental engineering,” Ergas said. “These certifications give us one more way to promote this type of competency that’s so important to our students.”

A number of academic programs at USF are currently certified as Global Pathways by the USF Global Citizens Project, which also awards participating USF students with the Global Citizen Award. The award recognizes students’ efforts to explore and help improve global issues in the regions of the world they’re interested in, as well as makes them eligible for unique study abroad scholarships.

Miches resident

A resident of the town of Miches in the Dominican Republic fashions a ladder for USF Engineers Without Borders students who traveled there to build three home rainwater catchment systems there in 2019.

To be certified as a Global Pathway, a degree program needs two Global Citizens courses, and all undergraduate courses are potentially eligible to be certified. The program’s learning outcomes also need to be aligned with two of six of the Global Citizens Project objectives and need to incorporate one of the high-impact practices outlined by the Association of American Colleges & Universities.

Ergas said that getting the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s undergraduate programs certified fell into place while faculty members were in the process of expanding CGN 4122 Professional and Ethical Issues in Engineering from a one-credit to a three-credit course.

She said that department Professors James Mihelcic and Nick Albergo already wanted to include sustainable development goals, professionalism and business in a global context within the course curriculum, making it a natural candidate to be certified as a Global Citizens course. Additionally, the program’s first Global Citizens course — ENV 4001 Environmental Systems Engineering — had been certified in a previous semester by department Professor Jeff Cunningham in a separate effort.

Ergas said Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair and Professor Manjriker Gunaratne was a champion of the effort to certify the undergrad programs and that the efforts of Professor Andrés Tejada-Martinez were also instrumental in achieving the certifications.

Professor Tejada-Martinez is the faculty advisor for the USF Engineers Without Borders chapter, which also plays a part in the undergrad programs' Global Pathway certification. The last requirement of certifying a degree program is partnering with a USF Student Affairs office or department to co-sponsor an annual event or project. To satisfy this requirement, USF Engineers Without Borders will host an annual event focusing on the efforts of local engineers and engineering students that benefit developing countries.

USF EWB team in Miches

USF Engineers Without Borders students stand with residents of the town of Miches in the Dominican Republic following the installation of a home water tank that stores clean water rainwater that residents can use in place of polluted river water from the town’s water tower or purchased water from a faraway vendor.

In a statement from the organization, the event aims to educate and promote student involvement in engineering for global development.

“The event may take different forms each year, but the goal will remain the same,” wrote USF Engineers Without Borders leadership. “Event topics will relate to hygiene and sanitation engineering and are designed to educate and inspire undergraduate students.”

One potential event element includes a panel representing different facets of global involvement in civil and environmental engineering, featuring engineers from Florida’s professional chapter of Engineers Without Borders who work abroad, returned Peace Corps volunteers who concentrated in Engineering for International Development at USF, and graduate and undergraduate USF Engineers Without Borders members.

“This final panel component would communicate that it’s never too early to get involved and that students can start gaining relevant skills through involving themselves with the USF EWB chapter,” the statement reads.

Professor and Associate Dean for Academics and Student Affairs Sanjukta Bhanja asked Ergas to be on the College of Engineering steering committee relating to the Global Citizens Project in 2017. The committee’s meetings take place several times each semester and laid the groundwork for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Global Pathway certifications.

“I floated the idea with Dr. Gunaratne, and he was very enthusiastic,” Ergas said. “It’s been maybe the last six months or so that we’ve really been working to do all the paperwork and get all the signatures and put all the pieces together.”

The programs' certification timelines were affected by existing aspects of capstone courses in the degrees. The capstone design course for the water resources and environmental track, for example, was already certified as a community service-learning class for the work students do with local municipal utilities on water, wastewater and stormwater-related projects.

“In general, students in civil and environmental engineering are very public service oriented, and a lot of them are interested in international development work,” Ergas said. “I think this gives them one more opportunity to have something on their resume or transcripts that they fulfilled the requirements for the award.”

Ergas said that Global Citizens Project staff was also very helpful navigating the nuances of the certification process and that she’d offer the insight she gained during the experience to assist leaders of other engineering departments in having their own undergraduate programs certified as Global Pathways.

“Now that the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has gone through the process, I’d be happy to help any other departments that want to do this,” she said.