Piedmont Virginia Community College Site Design; Reframing Societal Interpretation to Overcome the Stereotypes Surrounding Community College in America

Herrod, Abby, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Rogers, Hannah, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Smith, Brian, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Laugelli, Benjamin, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Engineers tend to focus a lot of their resources and knowledge on the technical side of the world. Diving deep into the minute details that make something work. Rarely is it the first thought of an engineer to determine, understand, and analyze the social implications of such technical designs. It goes without saying that most technical operations or projects also have a correlating impact on society and the world outside of mechanics. It is important that these social impacts be considered in technical design.
It is because of this idea that it is recommended that the technical project and the STS project of this thesis portfolio have some sort of connection. This shows good practice in being able to understand the social aspects of a technical project. For my technical project, I am working with a team that includes three other civil engineering undergraduate students and we are working towards creating a site plan for Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) located in Albemarle County, Virginia. This site plan is being developed for a new 20,000 sqft. building and a parking lot with 100 spaces to be included on the campus at PVCC. The site plan deliverable is a plan set submittal with grading plans, stormwater management plans, erosion and sediment control plans, a utility connection plan, and a traffic control plan for the desired site. Because this project is directly linked to a community college close to where I live I thought it was important to find a social aspect of community college to research for my STS paper.
My STS paper is about the stereotypes that surround community college in America and how these institutions have been working diligently to overcome these bad stigmas that they have been wrongly given by society. It goes into detail describing the various actions community colleges have taken to progress their academic programs. These actions include obtaining and retaining professors with a higher level of education and experience in their working field, a growth in the type of curriculum offered, and increasing the resources available to students. These actions can be analyzed using the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) theory to relate the advancements of community colleges to how the pertinent social groups should respond to these improvements. These resources for example can be seen from the expansion of PVCC. This is a perfect example of how a technical project also has social impacts. Without doing research about community colleges as a whole in America, I would never have been as aware of the progress they are striving to make to erase the bad stigmas they have given. PVCC is using the opportunity of the state giving them money to put towards their technology center. This technology center will include various labs and collaborative spaces which increases the schools capabilities for research opportunities for its students.
It has been very rewarding to work on these two projects simultaneously because I have been able to learn and understand the social implications of our technical site design. We can understand that we are doing more than just creating a site plan, we are helping to increase the resources at a postsecondary institution that has traditionally been viewed as less than in the eyes of society. The technical project can be a small step to help community colleges advance beyond the stereotypes it has been wrongly given.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Community College Stereotypes , Site Design

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Brian Smith
STS Advisor: Hannah Rogers, Benjamin Laugelli
Technical Team Members: Ryan Latham, Bart Turney, Zoe Weatherford

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