The Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities (MCEDC) provides a unique, comprehensive program in engineering from the undergraduate through doctoral levels, educating globally responsible, humanist engineers who will meet the needs of a rapidly growing human population while preserving Earth’s biodiversity, its delicate ecosystems, and its rich cultural heritages. At all levels, the program combines classroom training, research and development with real world, hands-on
experience working in partnership with organizations in developing communities worldwide. MCEDC is part of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
What is a humanist engineer?
A humanist engineer is a well-rounded, broadly educated person with a global perspective. A humanist engineer’s education goes beyond numbers and formulae, beyond books and computers, and into the realm of human relationships and experience, into languages, history and sociology, economics and political theory.
A humanist engineer understands that a successful solution to any engineering challenge must be a collaboration that takes into account local geography, technology, materials and personnel. Finally, a humanist engineer is committed to helping people in developing areas help themselves.
Members of this new generation of engineers are already emerging from the MCEDC with a broad education and the inspiration to make a positive impact on the world.
What makes MCEDC so unique?
First, the Center’s educators are global in practice and perspective, coming from across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and bringing with them years of experience in international, national, and local community building as well as core engineering expertise.
Second, MCEDC students receive an education that goes far beyond the engineering classroom. They learn to cultivate relationships and connect with the people whose needs will be met by the solution they will help design. By treating each task as more than just an engineering problem – how to build a bridge or a move water from one place to another – and by taking into consideration broader factors such as local resources, economics and ways of life, MCEDC students and graduates learn to create sustainable, forward-thinking solutions.
Third, and in furtherance of this, an integral part of the MCEDC graduate student’s experience is the student practicum, which involves 4-6 weeks spent on-site assisting a well-established organization in a consulting role. Whether focusing on some far-flung corner of the world or right here in an impoverished area of the United States, MCEDC students become involved in diverse, exciting projects that improve human lives.
Finally, MCEDC learns from the communities it serves. Its methodology centers on transferring knowledge in both directions: from the community and on-site organizations to the engineers, and from the engineers to the community and on-site organizations. In this way, they can work together to develop the best long-term solution based on local conditions. This empowers the community to move forward with completing and maintaining the project, rather than the project being driven from the outside.