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A Method for Assessing Engineering Leadership Content in the Engineering Curriculum: A First Look at Civil Engineering Project Management Courses

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development Constituent Committee Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.67.1 - 24.67.11



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Paper Authors

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Richard J. Schuhmann Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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James N. Magarian Massachusetts Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16


Elizabeth Huttner-Loan Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Elizabeth Huttner-Loan, Ed.M., is an Instructional Developer with the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. Her current interests are project-based learning, simulations involving leadership scenarios, and the intersection of technology and education.

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Engineering Leadership in Civil Engineering Project Management CurriculumThe NAE, Industry, educators, and professional engineering societies communicate the need forthe 21st century engineer to understand the principles of leadership and to be prepared to lead in avariety of venues, including government. While many engineering schools support thisproposition, many also lack an explicit functional mechanism by which to achieve it. Someschools may seek implicitly to foster leadership development in students through co-curriculargroup activities. Some existing engineering course curricula may contain implicit and explicitleadership components.The search for life in our solar system has begun with an exploration of the planet most likely tosupport life: Mars. Similarly, the search for existing leadership content in the system ofengineering courses should begin with an exploration of the course most likely to support thiscontent: project management.While leadership may exist in various facets of engineering curricula, civil engineering projectmanagement courses serve as a likely location to gauge the presence and prevalence of suchcontent. The ASCE Engineer of 2025 suggests leadership should exist in civil engineeringcurricula, challenging academia to provide “a more robust educational path for civil engineersthat prepares them for leadership and provides the multifaceted non-technical skills to serve onprojects affecting the public good.” For the purposes of this paper, civil engineering projectmanagement will serve as a sensitive litmus test for identifying leadership elements withinexisting engineering curricula.The ABET a-through-k criteria are argued by some as offering windows for integratingleadership into the engineering curriculum across disciplines. Project management coursecontent may include elements of team development and effective communication; it may evenexplore the economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety,manufacturability, and sustainability of a project design and its impact in a global, economic,environmental, and societal context.This paper surveys introductory civil engineering project management course content andidentifies the extent to which explicit and implicit leadership-related content is currentlyincorporated within the curriculum. Syllabi were collected from ABET accredited USengineering schools graduating the largest numbers of BS civil engineers. The syllabi wereanalyzed for implicit and explicit leadership content. Criteria for identifying leadership contentwere developed through a literature survey of leadership frameworks and models. Courses wereidentified as having either no leadership content, some content within a class period, or at leastone class period dedicated to leadership content. The paper discusses the nature and extent ofextant leadership within traditional civil engineering project management courses, and exploreshow leadership topics might be better incorporated within this subject and other engineeringtopics.

Schuhmann, R. J., & Magarian, J. N., & Huttner-Loan, E. (2014, June), A Method for Assessing Engineering Leadership Content in the Engineering Curriculum: A First Look at Civil Engineering Project Management Courses Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19959

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