Friday, April 5, 2013

UNO Civil Engineering Student Wins Top Prize in a National Contest

A University of New Orleans undergraduate civil engineering student has received high honors in a national contest designed to help young civil engineers further their development.

Ryan Gerken of Covington won second place this month in the national 2013 Daniel W. Mead Student Contest of the American Civil Society of Engineers. The contest, named in 1939 for the 67th president of the organization, presents a topic and requires students to produce thoughtful 2,000 word essays responding to an ethical question facing civil engineers today.

This year's topic question for the contest was: "Body of Knowledge – Is it Ethical to Associate Credentials With Competency." Contest guidelines allowed that "credentials" are considered "paper" qualifications obtained by completing formal education resulting in a certificate, diploma or degree and "competencies" are measurable skills related to one's ability to perform the specific task and duties of their chosen occupation or profession.

The contest guidelines acknowledged that credentials are relatively easy to evaluate when comparing individuals' job qualifications; by comparison, competencies or experience are harder to judge. ACSE policy supports the concept of a master's degree or equivalent as a prerequisite for licensure and practicing civil engineering at the professional level.

The contest then posed the following questions:

  • What, if any, are the ethical responsibilities the profession has in setting licensure prerequisites?
  • What are the potential ethical issues of using credentials as a measure of professional competency?
  • What are the ethical issues of continuing to maintain current licensure requirements in light of the ever-increasing technical complexity of our profession?
  • What are the ethical considerations of engineering educators who are being pressured by universities, elected officials or governing bodies to reduce the number of credit hours required to award an engineering degree?
  • What are the ethical issues of only presenting competencies as qualifications?


Gerken's essay "Credentials and Competency as Qualifications in the 21st Century" won second place and an $800 prize.

Learn more about the UNO College of Engineering >>
Learn more about the American Society of Civil Engineers >>