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Mount Union Professor Co-organizes 2019 Engineering, Social Justice and Peace Conference

June 12, 2019

WINDSOR, NEW YORK — The task of peace building is a task for engineers, too.

Dr. Shehla Arif, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Mount Union, assisted in organizing the 14th Annual Engineering, Social Justice and Peace Conference at Sky Lake Camp and Retreat Center in Windsor, New York from June 13 – 15.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Removing Borders Among Disciplines.” Engineering as a profession and academic field has existed largely in isolation from other disciplines. At the conference, authors will explore what author Gloria Anzaldúa defined as the Nepantla – the liminal space, the in-between and the borderlands from which novel insight and inspiration emerges. In this context, it means exploring the spaces and borders that have historically isolated engineering from outside socio-political critiques or academic traditions. The goal is to foster an educational setting where unique insight and revolutionary change can emerge from our community.

“Because engineering education is historically mainly focused on technical aspects, students often lack the tools to consider and integrate large-scale societal impact of their work in their professional practice,” said Arif. “This conference and the associated journal provide a platform for brainstorming and archiving creative ways in which engineers can carry on the task of peace building.

Arif has been integrating a social justice orientation and an entrepreneurial mindset in her teaching of thermofluids courses in the Department of Engineering at Mount Union.

“With great challenges facing us today such as climate change, perpetual wars, refugee crises, hunger and access to fresh water, engineers have a crucial role to play,” said Arif. “The key is to help them see the connections and encourage creative problem-solving. This involves being able to imagine – hence exploring the Nepantla.”

Students are exposed to complex and ethical dilemmas faced by engineers from sophomore through senior level using case studies. A course in Sustainable Energy Practices culminates this orientation by having students examine the societal impact of engineered products and redesign those products to align the needs of people, planet, and life.

Since 2018, Arif has also been serving as the lead editor of The International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace.

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