Program Criteria and Curriculum

The Civil Engineering curriculum is developed based on the program criteria established collaboratively by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET Inc. and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The curriculum specifically prepares civil engineering students at the baccalaureate level to graduate with the ability to:

1. Apply knowledge of mathematics through differential equations, calculus-based physics, general chemistry, and probability and statistics to assess uncertainty.
2. Analyze and solve problems in various areas of civil engineering.
3. Conduct experiments associated with civil engineering, as well as analyze and interpret the collected data.
4. Design a system, component, or process in various civil engineering contexts considering sustainability.
5. Explain basic concepts related to project management, business, public policy, and leadership.
6. Analyze issues related to professional ethics and explain the importance of professional licensure.

In accordance with the program criteria of ABET and ASCE, the Civil Engineering faculty responsible for teaching design-oriented courses are qualified in their respective professional areas by means of licensure, or a combination of education and design experience. Furthermore, the faculty are given responsibility and sufficient authority to define, revise, implement, and achieve program objectives.


The program awards the BS degree in civil engineering, with well-established focus in general, structural, environmental, and geotechnical areas; a focus area in water resources engineering (replacing agricultural engineering) was initiated in 2000-2001. The curriculum specifications and faculty qualifications more than adequately satisfy both ABET criteria and the American Society of Civil Engineers guidelines. The adequacy of the curriculum and faculty in meeting the above criteria and guidelines as well as all the educational objectives of the program are described here.


Specific criteria to be met under ASCE requirements for program curriculae are discussed in the following sections.

A – Proficiency in math, probability, statistics, physics, and chemistry

The program curriculum ensures that all graduates will have proficiency in the following subjects by completing the indicated courses with a grade of C or better:

  • Mathematics through differential equations: [12 cr.] MATH 191; 192; 291; 392
  • Probability and statistics: [3 cr.] STAT 371
  • Calculus-based physics: [4 cr.] PHYS 215, 215L
  • General chemistry: [4 cr.] CHEM 111
  • Science: [4 cr.] PHYS 216 or CHEM 112

The above subject areas are further reviewed, reiterated, and built upon in several other courses taught within the college and the program faculty (e.g., math in all classes; statistics in all lab classes; physics in hydraulic engineering, statistics, and dynamics; chemistry in CE 256).

B – Proficiency in four areas of civil engineering

As mentioned earlier, the program provides for specialization in four major focus areas in civil engineering; structural, environmental, water resources, and geotechnical. However, all students will have acquired proficiency in all the above four areas, before proceeding to their choice of specialization, by completing the following courses with a grade of C or better:

  • Structural engineering [15 cr.]: CE 301, CE 311, CE 315 and CE 345
  • Environmental engineering [6 cr.]: CE 256 and CE 356
  • Water resources engineering [9 cr.]: CE 231, CE 331 and CE 382
  • Geotechnical engineering [6 cr.]: CE 357 and CE 457

C – Ability to conduct experiments and analyze / interpret data

All graduates will have acquired laboratory experience and the skills to critically analyze and interpret data in the following four major civil engineering areas, by completing the indicated courses with a grade of C or better:

  • PHYS 215L Engineering Physics
  • CHEM 111 General Chemistry I
  • CHEM 112 or PHYS 216 Science II
  • CE 311 Civil Engineering Materials
  • CE 256L Environmental Science
  • CE 231 Introduction to Fluid Mechanics
  • GEOL 111 Introduction to Geology
  • CE 357 Soil Mechanics

In addition, the following focus area-specific courses provide further opportunities for gaining experimentation and data analysis skills:

  • CE 457 Foundation Design
  • CE 482 Hydraulic Structures
  • CE 483 Surface Water Hydrology
  • CE 485 Design of Earthen Dams
  • EnvE 462 Sampling and Analysis of Environmental Contaminants

D – Ability to perform design

Ability to design and analyze components, processes, or elements, are integrated into the curriculum from early stages; ability to design integrated, real life-like systems is covered in the capstone design courses in each of the four focus areas. Design is intentionally incorporated into all the courses taught by the department, starting from basic and engineering science courses, and progressing through design-intensive courses to culminate in the capstone design course.

Design in Structural Engineering focus area:

The first class in this focus area is CE 301: Mechanics of Materials, where the students learn fundamental theories of stress, strain, and deflection of deformable bodies due to bending, axial force, torsion, and shear. The students are introduced to the procedures for applying these basic principles to the design of shafts and beams. In the next two classes, CE 315: Determinate Structural Analysis and CE 365: Indeterminate Structural Analysis, the fundamentals learned in CE 233 and CE 301 are applied to the structural analysis of civil engineering structures based on elastic theory. Here they learn about the different types of loads, load paths, and computation of internal forces for several types of structures. Several methods for computing deflections and rotations of elastic structures are also covered including the integration method, conjugate beam, virtual work, and Castigliano’s theorems. Other topics covered include influence lines and indeterminate structural analysis using slope deflection, moment distribution and the force method for use as design tools. In this class students are also exposed to ASCE-7 and use this standard to determine loads on a structure. In the following class CE 445: Reinforced Concrete Design, the students are taught the fundamentals of reinforced concrete design based on Ultimate Strength Design specifications and material properties learned in CE 311. All program students take the above courses.

Students that have chosen structural engineering specialty will continue on to CE 444: Elements of Steel Design where they apply the Load and Resistance Factor Design (LRFD) approach for designing steel. In another design-intensive course, CE 457: Foundation design, application of fundamentals of soil systems to design of piles, retaining walls etc. in a comprehensive design project is completed. The culminating capstone design course for structural engineering students is CE 469: Structural Systems, where a building is designed. In this project, the students start with load calculations and structural analysis. The students then continue on to the design of the individual structural members and finally to constructability including cost estimates. A comprehensive report is prepared and presented in front of industry professionals for each of the two projects. (Student portfolios are available for review by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) review team of ABET). Students also have a structural elective where they may select one course from CE 454: Wood Design, CE 455: Masonry Design or CE 468: Mechanics of Structural Systems.

Design in Environmental Engineering focus area:

The first class in this focus area is CE 256: Environmental science (and CE 256L, the laboratory section), where the students learn fundamentals of environmental processes. Basic sizing calculations are done as ‘design’ examples, using empirical guidelines/rules of thumb. In the next class, CE 356 Fundamentals of environmental engineering, they learn the theory and fundamentals of individual engineered processes and reactors used for water and wastewater treatment. Here they apply design guidelines, mass balance, and process equations to ‘design’ components and processes for water and wastewater treatment; for e.g. sizing a rapid mix tank under certain energy dissipation, sizing an aeration basin for desired removal efficiency etc. for given conditions. All program students take the above courses.

At the next level, students opting for the environmental engineering specialty take a design-intensive course, ENVE 455: Solid and hazardous wastes system design. Here, students are introduced to process selection and conceptual design for solid and hazardous wastes treatment. Typically the faculty utilize practicing engineers to provide data and information for actual projects to give students an insight into actual projects. Projects usually involve some of the following; process selection and concept design for soil size reduction and screening; off-gas capture and treatment; waste treatment and stabilization; leachate collection and treatment; secondary liquid waste treatment, water reuse and recycling. These projects are usually completed in three phases, culminating in a comprehensive written report and oral presentation in front of industry professionals, others and the instructor. Students from CE 355G, a Viewing the Wider World general education class, provide a critical non-engineering audience.

These students then continue on to the capstone design course, ENVE 456: Environmental engineering design where a complete wastewater treatment plant is designed. In these projects, the students start with population projection, and continue with plant capacity estimation, concept design, process selection and detailed design, reactor selection and detailed design, equipment sizing and selection (from catalogs), to plant layout and cost estimates. Two comprehensive reports are prepared for each of the two projects and presented to a panel of industry professionals, other students and the instructor. (Student portfolios, presentation videos and plan sheets are available for review by the EAC review team of ABET).

Design in Water Resources Engineering focus area:

The first class in this focus area is CE 231: Introduction to fluid mechanics, where students learn the fundamentals of fluid flow. Here they apply continuity and energy equations to ‘design’ components of hydraulic systems; for e.g. in sizing the pipes, estimating pump horsepower etc under given conditions. They also get an opportunity to conduct laboratory tests on related topics. The students work in teams to design and build a fountain and then present the results to practicing professionals and the public. In the next class, in CE 331: Hydraulic engineering, they are exposed to the details of various components, applying their fundamental knowledge to select different components or materials to meet certain desired conditions, under some constraints. Equipment selection is done for close-ended problems; e.g. matching given pump curves to system curves to select pump.

Following that, students continue with a design intensive course, CE 382: Hydraulic systems design, where they learn to develop spreadsheet models and use computer programs (KY-Pipe) to derive performance curves to evaluate various combinations of the hydraulic components such as pipe networks, and select equipment from commercially available products. Students learn to solve open-ended problems using trial and error, simulation, and optimization. Students learn to write short reports incorporating computer-simulated results (Student portfolios are available for review by the EAC review team of ABET). All program students take the above courses.

Finally, in the capstone design courses, CE 482: Hydraulic structures, students undertake a project to design structures for flow measurement, regulation, drainage, energy dissipation, and conveyance. Students apply rainfall, runoff, and flow estimation methods learnt in CE 483: Introduction to surface water hydrology, to develop and establish design criteria based on static and dynamic loads, and students evaluate adequacy based on structural stability (uplift, overturning, sliding, foundation), capacity, precision (for flow measurement structures), and economic performance.An integrated, comprehensive design project is carried out each semester with the local water management agency, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, acting as a client. Student groups design the necessary hydraulic structures, evaluate costs, prepare a comprehensive report, and present their designs to the cooperator, consulting engineers from the area, other students in the class, and the instructor. (Student portfolios are available for review by the EAC review team of ABET).

Design in Geotechnical Engineering focus area:

In the revised CE curriculum, freshmen students take GEOL: 111 Survey of Geology, which provides the fundamentals of geology and engineering geology. In this course, students acquire the basic background and laboratory skills needed for CE 357: Soil Mechanics. The second class in this focus area is CE 357: Soil Mechanics, where students learn the main concepts of soil mechanics and soil engineering as they relate to civil engineering projects, basic soil testing methods and interpretation of the engineering properties of soils. CE 457: Foundation Design applies the knowledge learned in previous courses to the design of shallow and deep foundations in diverse soil profiles and site conditions, and the calculation of settlements and lateral earth pressures. According to the revised curriculum, this course is now required to all CE students.

Two senior elective courses are included in the geotechnical engineering track: GEN 452: Geohydrology and GEN 459: Geomechanics and Applied Rock Engineering. GEN 452: Geohydrology addresses the effects of ground water and groundwater systems on engineering projects, water supply, and contaminant transport and mitigation. The course incorporates effective stress, aquifer analysis, well-field design, dewatering for construction and a variety of other ground-water- and geotechnical-related design elements. On the other hand, GEN 459: Geomechanics and Applied Rock Engineering broadens the students’ scope of understanding of earth materials as engineering materials and expand their knowledge base to include the engineering properties and engineering characteristics of rocks and weathered rocks. In this course, the students learn to apply the above to the design of rock slopes, underground excavations, foundations, and rock support systems.

GEN 485: Design of Earth Dams is the capstone design course for the geotechnical focus area in civil engineering. In this course, students work in teams to design a small flood-control earthen dam, from the initial site investigation and characterization to the hydrologic basin analysis to the final geotechnical design of the dam embankment, spillways and outlet works. Actual data, available materials, and local sites are considered in the capstone project. The design project also requires the students to select the most appropriate site for the dam, perform settlement calculations of the embankment and foundation materials, determine flood routing, and provide recommendations or specifications for construction control. The course is taken not only by students in the geotechnical engineering track, but also by students that choose the general option, water resources option and graduate students. The background diversity in these engineering design teams makes the learning experience more stimulating and broader. Each student submits a report addressing each topic. A comprehensive final design report is submitted by the team. Guest lectures in this field are invited to classroom to share their experience with the student. Practicing professionals are invited to critique the final oral presentations. (Examples of student portfolios are available for review by the EAC review team of ABET).