Document Type


Publication Date



Curriculum planning, Higher education -- Curricula -- United States -- Design


The student experience during the freshman year has been recognized as one of the keys to not only attracting more students into engineering and improving retention, but also to forming some significant attributes of successful engineering graduates. Portland State University is an urban university, and its Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department serves a relatively large and very diverse student population including a large fraction of transfer and part-time students. Traditionally, all engineering disciplines within our Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science had a similar freshman year curriculum. The common entry course – Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) 101 – served as the cornerstone along with one or two additional courses which were more discipline specific. In ECE these two courses covered introduction to programming and digital logic, with the former taught by the Computer Science (CS) department and the latter by ECE.

There were a number of reasons why we decided to redesign our undergraduate curricula. Through our own assessment and feedback from employers and alumni, several programmatic issues were identified: a) insufficient programming skills, b) introduction to design only in upper-division courses, c) weak communication skills. At the same time, many schools across the United States were reducing the credit load in Electrical Engineering (EE) to 180 credits, and we had started feeling pressure from our students and prospective students as well. This prompted our examination into ways of rationalizing and potentially reducing the number of courses. Finally, we wanted to make our program more attractive to undecided and traditionally under-represented groups of students. We realized that solutions for many of the identified issues might be found by focusing on how we introduce freshman students to electrical and computer engineering fields.


Paper presented at 2011 Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC.

Persistent Identifier