Throughout history, technology has been a major driver of social, political, and economic change. Societies around the globe employ public policies to solve problems and achieve their social, economic, and environmental objectives. The spheres of public policy and technology overlap as society is challenged to consider not only the role of new technologies in its quest for improved quality of life, but also how policies affect the development, emergence, and choice of new technologies. Because of the role engineers play in creating new technology, they increasingly have an important role in helping to shape public policy. Moreover, policies affecting how we as a society live and work—such as environmental, industrial, energy, and national security policy, to name a few—demand that engineers be prepared to integrate policy issues into their engineering practice. Engineering activities, careers, and even the profession itself are greatly influenced by public policies. Whether it is the recent public discussion over U.S. innovation and competitiveness, or the significant increase in education required for engineering licensure, the engineering profession is being profoundly changed by public policy.
Yet the vast majority of engineers have little knowledge of public policy, and most policymakers have little firsthand knowledge about the many technologically-steeped decisions they make. This disparity was recently recognized by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the top engineering body in the country. The NAE has called for new curricula in engineering and public policy to bridge this gap.
In its recent report, Educating the Engineer of 2020, the NAE stated that engineering curricula that integrate public policy “could serve as a recruiting tool … [and] an optimum launch pad to challenging and rewarding professions – engineering first and foremost, but also medicine, law and business.” In noting the increased convergence between engineering and public policy, the NAE found:
This new level of interrelatedness necessitates that engineering, and engineers, develop a stronger sense of how technology and public policy interact. To date, engagement of engineers in public policy issues has been limited at best. It is both the responsibility of engineers and important to the image of the profession that engineers increase their ability to eloquently articulate the relevance of engineering to many public policy issues.
This degree creates such an integrated engineering/public policy curriculum through the BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering/Science, Technology, and Public Policy. The program is supported by faculty in both the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Science, Technology, & Society/Public Policy.
This program is a natural fit that will enable qualified students enrolled in Mechanical Engineering but interested in public policy issues to pursue a graduate level degree in a field that combines their engineering and public policy interests.
The program is designed as an integrated dual degree program where qualified students begin taking MS courses in their fourth year. In the proposed program a total of 226 quarter credit hours are required, which allows students to earn both a BS and MS degree in the same time normally required for just the BS degree.
A student will typically apply to the BS/MS degree program in their second year. Students are allowed to pursue the BS/MS option as long their GPA remains above a 2.5. Students must take the Policy Analysis I-III sequence and use these courses to meet their College of Liberal Arts concentration requirement.
RIT graduates are entering a competitive job market, one where engineering can and will increasingly be done in lower-cost countries. This degree provides the multi-disciplinary skills that can help a graduate differentiate themselves from their peers. This BS/MS degree is an educational opportunity for students seeking to become leaders at integrating engineering with government, policy, and the social sciences.
Students who complete this BS/MS will be highly sought after by many public and private sector organizations. Government entities with science and technology program activities, such as the US Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Transportation, NASA, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will find our BS/MS students attractive because they can effectively maneuver in both the world of the engineer and the world of the policy analyst. Companies, particularly consulting firms, will find our BS/MS students desirable, as these students will be able to "bridge the gaps" between the engineering, policy, and business worlds. Graduates will be able to understand how policies shape product markets, and how policies can be developed that will lead to new scientific advances and markets for goods and services. Lastly, our BS/MS graduates will be uniquely prepared for continued training in professional schools, law and business, as well as Ph.D. programs.