The energy and extractive industries present unique challenges to engineers and geoscientists, who must navigate sometimes competing responsibilities and codes of conduct, such as personal senses of right and wrong, professional ethics codes, and their employers’ social responsibility (SR) policies. However, most engineering curriculums do not include courses specifically focused on SR, and many new hires do not learn about SR until employment begins. Students are familiar with industry phrases such as "social license to operate," "stakeholder engagement," and "be a good neighbor," yet they often lack understanding of the broader context of these goals. By exploring the context of hydrocarbon development projects, through field exercises, students can gain an awareness of the health, safety, security, environment and social responsibility risks. In this paper, we report on research that seeks to understand the relationship between petroleum engineering and SR, the current dominant framework used by industry to conceptualize firms’ responsibilities to their stakeholders. We also share results from a study of pedagogical enhancements in required petroleum engineering field sessions at the Colorado School of Mines (Mines). These enhancements were designed to better prepare undergraduate petroleum engineering students to critically appraise the strengths and limitations of SR as an approach to reconciling the interests of industry and communities. The analysis suggests that SR may be a fruitful arena from which to illustrate the profoundly sociotechnical dimensions of the engineering challenges relevant to students’ future careers.