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Structural Engineers Aim To Improve Student Training

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The National Council of Structural Engineers Associations is ramping up a campaign to lure civil engineering students into structural studies and improve their preparation for practice. A mentoring program, designed to help practitioners move the student from the textbook to the workplace, is under development. NCSEA recently released an education survey listing 53 U.S. engineering schools that offer the association’s recommended curriculum.

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NCSEA is promoting Northeastern University’s work-study program in Boston as its mentoring model. “Our hope is to publicize nationally that which has worked so well with cooperative education at Northeastern,” says Craig E. Barnes, head of CBI Consulting Inc., Boston, and head of NCSEA’s Basic Education Committee.

Unless a school has a strong co-op program, students often are exposed to a real project only in their last undergraduate year. “It is unreal to think a student can make a one-course transition from academia to the workplace,” he adds.

In early 2009, the committee formed a group of structural engineers (SEs) who would function as liaisons between their college alma maters and practitioners. Called SE Connect, the group now has 115 practitioner volunteers.

The purpose of the group, led by NCSEA members Brian Quinn and Lisa Willard, is to provide point-to-point contacts for communication in both directions—from practitioners to schools and vice versa, says Barnes. Another goal is to expose civil engineering freshmen and sophomores to structural engineering.

NCSEA hopes the 2010 Education Survey will improve the technical and practical quality of education and disseminate information about curricula offered by different schools. The survey is based on a recommended curriculum, called the Basic Structural Education, jointly developed in 2005 by practitioners and educators. Survey results are available at The document lists schools’ offerings, including 76 of the 129 respondents that do not offer all the recommended courses.


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