Information for Undergraduate Students

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Completing the Course Contract Form

Once you have been admitted to the program, it is now time to meet with one of the ISSuES Certificate Advisors (listed below) to plan what courses you will take to complete the program requirements. You will also need to complete a Certificate Declaration Form. We will send you that form electronically, and you will then send it on to the Registrar’s office.


Sainath Suryanarayanan
Robert F. & Jean E. Holtz Center for Science & Technology Studies – Associate Director

With the aid of your certificate advisor, you will begin to fill out your Course Contract Form.

This form serves two purposes:

  • To help you plan what courses you would like to take.
  • To keep track of what courses you have taken.

Your Course Contract is not a binding agreement. Think of it as a changing document that you will consistently revisit with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor as you move through the program. Thus, your Course Contract Form will not be complete until you have completed the ISSuES Certificate program.

The courses that you end up taking to fulfill your ISSuES requirements may be very different from those you initially put on your Course Contract Form. That is expected. We recognize that sometimes scheduling conflicts, course availability and even personal interest could move you to alter what courses you choose to take.

However, it is important to meet with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor and get their approval for any and all courses that you want to count for ISSuES certificate credit before you take them.

It is possible to receive certificate credit for courses taken before you have applied to the program. To do so, please consult with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor.

Choosing Courses

Overall, students need to complete 15 credits to earn the ISSuES Undergraduate Certificate.

All students enrolled in the ISSuES program take STS 201 “Where Science Meets Society”, a 3-credit course designed to explore the relationship between science, technology, and society.  It is premised on the idea that science and technology affect our social, cultural, economic, and political lives, and, equally, scientific research and technology development are shaped by their social, cultural, economic, and political contexts. The course approaches the ways in which science and technology “meet society” through a series of studies that can range from refrigerators to biofuels, nuclear waste storage to pollinator die-off, food systems to engineering disasters.

The course has three goals:
  1. Challenge students to reflect on their own assumptions about the relationships among knowledge, science, technology, society, and politics.
  2. Engage students in analyses of major contemporary controversies, enabling each student to acquire in-depth knowledge of one issue of her/his choosing.
  3. Improve students’ skills in writing and public speaking.

Students must also complete 9 additional credits (typically 3 courses) chosen from one of four focus clusters:

  • Ethics Focus: This cluster of courses aims to provide students with the tools to rigorously consider the ethical issues that are raised by engineering and scientific research and by the commercialization of the products of that research.The Ethics Focus Cluster includes courses taught in Philosophy, History of Science, Sociology, Community and Enviornmental Sociology and other departments across campus.
  • Leadership Focus: This cluster of courses concentrates on the kind of public policy issues that are raised by scientific and engineering research and the widespread use of new technologies.The Leadership Focus Cluster includes courses taught in History of Science, Political Science, Sociology, Community and Environmetal Sociology and other departments across campus.
  • Design Focus: This cluster of courses aims to expose students to the aesthetic and social issues raised in engineering practice. Courses in this cluster include those taught in Art, Art History, Design Studies, Landscape Architecture and other courses across campus.
  • General Focus: This cluster has the broadest focus, allowing students to create their own emphasis while taking courses that provide them with the tools and language with which to approach the relationship between science, engineering and society in an integrated and interdisciplinary fashion.The General Focus Cluster includes courses taught in History of Science, Medical History and Bioethics, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and Community and Environmental Sociology.

Each focus cluster has a list of suggested courses associated with it. However, you should not feel limited to the courses we suggest. Any course from the social sciences or humanities that deals critically with issues related to your focus (Ethics, Leadership, Design, or General) can count for ISSuES credit. Please meet with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor and get their approval for any and all courses that you want to count for ISSuES certificate credit.

Also, it is possible to double-count your ISSuES courses towards completing the liberal studies requirements of the College of Engineering or the liberal studies requirements of any other major. Sample Course Curricula for each engineering major provides examples of how this may be done.

Again, this should be done in close consultation with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor. We encourage you to keep your major advisor informed of your certificate plans to make sure you graduate on time.

Completing the Program

You have two different, but flexible, options for completing the ISSuES Undergraduate Certificate Program.

1) Complete an intermediate or advanced level course (designated I, A, or D in the Timetable) from your chosen focus area (2-3 credits).
2) Complete a capstone experience, such as an Independent Study, Directed Study, Senior Thesis, and Senior Studies Thesis that relates to your focus area (2-3 credits).

Our goal is to have you complete the program in a way that relates to your focus area and emphasizes what you have learned about the relationship between science, engineering, technology and society.

This final course or capstone experience should help you relate your ISSuES certificate courses to your major. Please meet with your ISSuES Certificate Advisor to determine which pathway is best for your educational goals and major schedule.

Graduating from ISSuES

Students who have completed the ISSuES Undergraduate Certificate are asked to participate in a brief exit interview with their ISSuES Certificate Advisor. Think of this interview as an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments in the ISSuES program and provide your Certificate Advisor with valuable feedback about the program.

Students are also asked to draft a one-page letter to their advisors for their major program. This Major Advisor Letter should summarize what you believe you gained from participating in the ISSuES program. Again, this letter is an opportunity for you to reflect on what you have learned in the ISSuES program while providing both your Major Advisor and Certificate Advisor with some valuable feedback about your ISSuES experience.

A sample outline of this letter, along with a Letter to Major Advisor Coversheet.