CEE Professor Steve Skerlos has taken on a new role as the Faculty Director for the Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED) at the University of Michigan. C-SED, located on the third floor of the GG Brown Building, opened its doors in Fall 2017.
C-SED offers a design academy, educational programs, consulting services, credentialing and field opportunities to foster student skills in socially engaged design. In addition, C-SED aids faculty members interested to include social engagement topics in their courses, as well as physical prototyping spaces to support socially engaged design projects. Topics advanced by C-SED include design ethnography, community engagement, ideation, prototyping, sustainability, engineering economics, and much more.
The mission of C-SED is to teach engineering students how to rigorously evaluate and seize opportunities to serve society and the environment. One approach C-SED uses is to provide students the tools they need to work with stakeholders in the community on engineering projects. C-SED trains students to find engineering problems and to address them, focusing on the integration of human, cultural, economic and environmental factors.
“You can’t have the people who know what the problem is separated from the people who are addressing the problem. The solutions proposed are rarely sustainable. We need to create opportunities for students to work on the ground, in the real-world, defining the problem AND addressing the problem using the rigorous methods taught in the College of Engineering,” says Skerlos.
One unique aspect of the Socially Engaged Design Academy is its pedagogy based on learning blocks. Students perform the activities in the blocks independently, then they come to the center and meet with a coach. The coach evaluates whether they have gained the skill, only then can they pass that block. C-SED blocks can be taken on the student’s own time or as part of course assignments.
Skerlos added, “In engineering we have traditionally taught students how to climb a ladder, one step to the next. We have neglected to challenge them to think about where to put that ladder or what to do when they make it to the roof. C-SED is a response to that. We are training students to learn how to observe, interview, listen, and connect with a community and its culture – to provide leadership solving key local challenges using their engineering skills and more.”
C-SED’s services are available for use by all University of Michigan students, student organizations, and faculty. All disciplines are welcome, not just engineering. The center is currently serving over 400 students.
Steve Skerlos is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering. Professor Skerlos is jointly appointed to both departments. CEE Professor, Nancy Love, serves on the advisory board for the Center for Socially Engaged Design.