New Faculty Highlight

Dr. Diana Chen and Dr. Gordon Hoople, Assistant Professor, Shiley Marcos School of Engineering

Picture of Dr. Diana Chen Picture of Dr. Gordon Hoople

Engineering and social justice may seem like an unlikely pairing to most. However, for Dr. Diana Chen and Dr. Gordon Hoople there couldn’t be a better match. Both professors are the forefront of the new General Engineering major at USD. Their aim is to utilize USD’s social justice mission to guide their approaches to engineering. For both Dr. Chen and Dr. Hoople their passion to meld together social justice and engineering is largely influenced by their educational background. Both professors attended Harvey Mudd College, which they admit has shaped their approaches to general engineering. Like USD, Harvey Mudd is a liberal arts college. According to Dr. Chen this has allowed her to develop an interdisciplinary background, which brings context to various problems in engineering.

General engineering can be described as a skill-based curriculum that focuses on knowledge that is common across all disciplines, such as effective communication, working on teams, and professionalism. An example of this would be a class currently taught by Dr. Chen titled “User-Centered Design” which as the title suggests places emphasis on understanding the needs of the users of designs, rather than designing for hypothetical problems in a vacuum. Another example would include Dr. Hoople’s class that will be offered during the Fall 2017 semester in collaboration with the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. Dr. Chen and Dr. Hoople see great value in classes like this being taught at USD since it allows students to develop an understanding of engineering that is at the human level. Dr. Chen teaches her students interviewing skills to better determine how a design can address an individual's need. Dr. Hoople’s class, which is tentatively but creatively titled “Engineering Peace with Drones,” creates an environment in which both disciplines (engineering & peace studies) can learn and interact with each other. Both classes aim to instill values in their students that are crucial when assessing social justice issues from an engineering perspective.

For Dr. Hoople, USD’s mission was a huge reason why he decided to come to USD. Both Dr. Chen and Dr. Hoople will acknowledge that it is really difficult to integrate social justice with engineering. Dr. Chen even describes the pairing to be largely undervalued by much of the engineering community as a whole. However, both acknowledge that USD’s strong institutional framework values and supports their endeavor, which makes it possible to do. Aside from institutional support, Dr. Chen and Dr. Hoople also see USD’s student body as another benefit to having a General Engineering major at USD. Dr. Hoople describes that one of the many advantages of USD is that students who choose to come to here have come because they are interested in the social justice mission. Therefore, it is not only the institution or the faculty that are eager to meld engineering and social justice together but also the students.