Asee peer logo

Becoming Boundary Spanning Engineers: Research Methods and Preliminary Findings

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Research Methods II: Meeting the Challenges of Engineering Education Research

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Brent K. Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is Associate Professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He is also an Associate Director of Purdue’s Office of Global Engineering Programs, leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award to study boundary-spanning roles and competencies among early career engineers. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and practice.

visit author page


Natascha Trellinger Buswell Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Natascha Trellinger is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She graduated with her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Syracuse University where her interest in the teaching and learning aspects of engineering began. At Purdue, Natascha is a member of the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) and is particularly interested in graduate level engineering education and faculty experiences.

visit author page


Andrea Mazzurco Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Andrea Mazzurco is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He earned a B.C. in Aerospace Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, and a M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Purdue University. His research interests include global engineering education, engineering for sustainable community development, and social justice in the engineering curriculum.

visit author page

Download Paper |


A growing body of evidence suggests that practicing engineers are increasingly expected to act as boundary spanners who can participate in and manage diverse local and global teams, translate competing stakeholder demands into effective design solutions, and leverage expert knowledge from multiple fields and specialties. The larger project represented by this paper responds to this reality by proposing boundary spanning as a core meta-attribute for engineering students and early career professionals. This paper more specifically offers a detailed description of the study design for a major phase of this research project that involves conducting in-depth, semi-structured interviews about boundary spanning experiences with more than two dozen early career engineers in the manufacturing, construction, and electronics industries. To keep the scope of the present account more manageable, this paper provides a preliminary window onto our findings. We utilize a single case approach with a focus on three themes emerging from our analysis of two interviews with one research subject. Namely, we discuss transitions from school to internships to full-time job, the social aspects of engineering practice, and the emotional and psychological dimensions of professional work. One leading objective for this paper is to explore the utility of investigating the realities of engineering work through the lens of an overarching meta-attribute such as boundary spanning. We also propose that our findings provide valuable glimpses of engineering practice that might benefit students who are studying or considering studying engineering. This paper may additionally appeal to educators and researchers who are interested in qualitative methods and/or empirical studies of professional practice.

Jesiek, B. K., & Buswell, N. T., & Mazzurco, A. (2016, June), Becoming Boundary Spanning Engineers: Research Methods and Preliminary Findings Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26370

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015