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Advising Student Organizations: The Challenges (And Rewards?) For New Engineering Faculty

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Been There/Done That: Advice for NEEs

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.163.1 - 13.163.5



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Paper Authors


Craig Somerton Michigan State University

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Craig W. Somerton is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Undergraduate Program for Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. He teaches in the area of thermal engineering including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal design. He also teaches the capstone design course for the department. Dr. Somerton has research interests in computer design of thermal systems, transport phenomena in porous media, and application of continuous quality improvement principles to engineering education. He received his B.S. in 1976, his M.S. in 1979, and his Ph.D. in 1982, all in engineering from UCLA.

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Laura Genik Michigan State University

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Laura J. Genik is a visiting assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University. She teaches in the area of thermal engineering, including thermodynamics, heat transfer, and thermal system design. Dr. Genik has research interests in transport phenomena in porous media, inverse problems and parameter estimation in heat transfer processes, and computer design of thermal systems. She received her B.S. in 1991, her M.S. in 1994, and her Ph.D. in 1998, all in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Advising Student Organizations: The Challenges (and rewards?) for New Engineering Faculty

Introduction It is not uncommon that a new engineering faculty member, amid a myriad of rationalizations, is often assigned the advising role for a student organization. This was true for both of the authors, as we were assigned this role even before all the boxes were unpacked. Some of these rationalizations include: you’re close to the students’ age, it will be good for your service profile, we need to relieve senior professor so-and-so of this duty, or you have so much in common with the organization. Unfortunately, most of the time the simple truth is that no one else on the faculty wants to do it and you are at the bottom of the food chain. In this paper some of the challenges associated with advising student organizations are examined and, based on 30+ years of student group advising, approaches to address these challenges are discussed. Some of these challenges include establishing a strong officer group, soliciting resources, and interacting with alumni. The rewards associated with this activity are also reviewed, including better student relations and research program student recruitment. We believe that student organizations provide students with extraordinary learning experiences associated with teaming, communication, networking, and leadership. Good, strong conscientious advising of these groups can make a significant contribution to the well being of an academic department and its educational mission.

This paper continues with a brief background on the nature of engineering student organizations and the stated roles of the faculty advisor. Previous literature on advising student organizations is reviewed. The nuts and bolts of good advising are then provided. This is followed by presenting a number of the challenges faced in advising student organizations and approaches to these challenges are suggested. The paper concludes by assessing the value of student organizations to the students, advisors, and program.

Background Engineering student organizations fall into one of four categories. First, there are the student sections of professional organizations, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AICHE), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The purpose of these students sections are to introduce engineering students to a discipline specific engineering profession. This includes professional practice, ethics, and general information about the discipline. Second, are the honor societies, examples which include Tau Beta Pi (overall engineering), Pi Tau Sigma (mechanical engineering), Chi Epsilon (civil engineering) and Eta Kappa Nu (electrical engineering). Third, there are the diversity organizations such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES). Finally there are the organizations that focus on build projects that include concrete canoe, steel bridge, formula SAE, SAE Baja and challenge X competition teams. Many of the aforementioned organizations can fall into this final category, making advising two-fold: focusing on the tenets of the organization as well as an involved design and build. All of

Somerton, C., & Genik, L. (2008, June), Advising Student Organizations: The Challenges (And Rewards?) For New Engineering Faculty Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3235

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