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An Evaluation of an Engineering Leadership Development Program on Alumni Job Placement and Career Progression

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Skills Development Across the Undergraduate-to-Workforce Transition

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development

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Paper Authors


Dena Lang Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Lang is the Associate Director of the Engineering Leadership Research Program at Penn State University. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University, an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in Kinesiology with a focus on Biomechanics from Penn State University. Dr. Lang's previous professional experiences and research interests range from mechanical engineering facilities design to research that applied engineering and molecular biology approaches to the study of the skeletal response to mechanical loading. As a Mechanical Engineer, she worked on facility design projects involving mechanical systems that included heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and energy conservation systems, as well as R&D of air conditioning equipment for Navy ships. Additional research interests have included the investigation of relationships among components of the indoor environment, occupants, and energy usage. Specifically, the effects of the indoor environment on occupant health and well-being and in parallel, how socially-mediated energy-saving strategies can increase awareness of energy use and/or increase energy saving behaviors. Dr. Lang's current research interests focus on identifying, assessing, and developing key skills, knowledge, attitudes, and other intrinsic and extrinsic factors required for engineers to effectively lead others, particularly other engineers and across cultures.

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Travis Gehr


Meg Handley Pennsylvania State University

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Meg Handley is currently the Associate Director for Engineering Leadership Outreach at Penn State University. Previously, Meg served as the Director of the Career & Corporate Connection's office at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. Meg completed her PhD in Workforce Education at Penn State, where she focused on interpersonal behaviors and their impact on engineering leadership potential.

Meg is a board certified coach with experience in developing students' leadership and professional competencies through teaching and one-on-one coaching. She is most interested in developing student knowledge of leadership to impact their successful transition to the workplace.

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John Jongho Park Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Park is an assistant research professor in the Engineering Leadership Program at Penn State University. There is four interrelated areas of inquiry characterize Dr. Park’s scholarship: psychological attributes, professional identity development, group processes, and engineering leadership development. Particularly, he examines how possible future-self influences engineering students’ learning, academic motivation, and career trajectory. The major population he primarily focuses on is STEM undergraduate and graduate students. He has received extensive qualitative and quantitative methodological training in the area of educational psychology. He acquired a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Resources Management and a Masters of Educational Technology from California State University, Long Beach, and a Master’s of Program Evaluation and a Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to joining the Penn State University, he worked as a research fellow and program evaluator at University of Michigan. Also he taught an “individual learning skills” as an assistant instructor in the University of Texas at Austin for five years.

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Andrew Michael Erdman Pennsylvania State University

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Andrew M. "Mike" Erdman received his B.S. in Engineering Science from Penn State and his M.S. from USC. At Rocketdyne (Pratt & Whitney), he helped design the Space Shuttle. As manager of Reactor Safety Analysis, Experimental Engineering, and Fluid Dynamics Technology at KAPL (Bechtel), he conducted research for Naval Reactors. He currently serves as the Walter L. Robb director of Engineering Leadership and as a Professor of Practice in SEDTAPP and Engineering Science at Penn State.
Erdman has chaired the local Jaycees, Department of Social Services Advisory Council, GE Share Board, and Curling Club; and served on the Human Services Planning Council, United Way, Chamber of Commerce, and Capital Fund Drive Boards of Directors. Erdman has lectured on leadership topics at Penn State and RPI. He served as a recruiter (25 years) for GE and Lockheed Martin, on the Penn State College of Engineering Advisory Council, an Alumni Advisory Board, and as the President of the College of Engineering Alumni Society. Affiliations include Fellow of ASME, member of ASEE, AIAA, the Penn State Alumni Association, Centre County Chapter Board of Directors, President’s Club, Nittany Lion Club. He has been honored with a LMC Leadership Award, GE Phillippe Award, PSEAS Outstanding service award, Jaycee International Senatorship, and an ESM Centennial Fellowship.

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This is a ‘work-in-progress’ paper and is appropriate for the ‘Inform’ topic area. Leadership development programs have become an integral part of the engineering curriculum in order to meet the professional development needs of our graduates as well as the needs of their employers. This paper reports preliminary results from a survey of alumni from an undergraduate engineering leadership development program. The survey was developed to assess the degree to which the program is meeting its goals, which include ensuring that the program targets the skills needed in today’s workplace, as well as enhance students’ ability to land their first job and advance in their career. Graduates of the program (n=136) were surveyed to better understand the impact of the program on their initial career placement, subsequent career advancement, and the development of skills needed for today’s engineering work. Alumni were asked to rate their agreement (on a Likert-scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree) with the following statements: 1) The ELD program was instrumental in helping me get my first job. 2) The ELD program was instrumental in helping me get one or more promotions. and 3) The ELD program helped me develop skills needed for today’s engineering work. These survey questions were intended to assess whether the alumni regarded their participation in the leadership development program as important in their initial hire and subsequent career progression. In addition, the third survey item was used to assess whether alumni believed that the program’s developmental objectives were meeting the needs of our graduates in the workplace. Results from the alumni survey indicated that the ELD program was instrumental in helping ELD minor graduates in getting their first job (64% responded strongly agree or agree) and in getting one or more promotions (57% responded strongly agree or agree). In addition, the survey results indicate that the program helped to develop the skills needed for today’s engineering work (86% responded strongly agree or agree). Future work will explore whether participation in the leadership development program results in differences in salary level upon graduation compared to similar graduates not in the leadership program. In addition, follow up work will aim at better understanding where improvements can be made within the leadership development curriculum.

Lang, D., & Gehr, T., & Handley, M., & Park, J. J., & Erdman, A. M. (2020, June), An Evaluation of an Engineering Leadership Development Program on Alumni Job Placement and Career Progression Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34119

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