June 28, 1998
June 28, 1998
July 1, 1998
3.122.1 - 3.122.4
Bridging Classrooms and Corporations
Bernadette Longo Clemson University
Throughout this century, engineer-managers have emphasized the need for improved engineering curricula which would train students to be effective communicators, as well as competent engineers. And throughout this century, administrators and faculty in engineering schools have devised ways to meet this challenge from industry. Yet as we approach the close of this century, we find engineer-managers still calling for improved curricula to integrate communication and engineering instruction. In the January 1998 issue of the Prism, for example, Rodger Payne reiterated this oft-heard recommendation from industry to academe: “[I]ndustry representatives told [engineering deans] time and again that while engineering graduates are intelligent and possess technical skills, they need to be better prepared to communicate, work in teams, and 1 contribute to problem solving—all on their first day on the job.” It seems that the problem of how to integrate communication and engineering instruction is at least persistent, if not insoluble.
If engineer-managers are calling for stronger ties between industry and academe, this refrain is echoed by professional communicators. Writing in the February 1998 issue of Technical Communication, George Hayhoe called for the same type of collaboration that Payne recommended in an engineering context: “Technical communicators in the academy and industry need to explore a new model of education for the next millennium, one that fosters, promotes, and actively pursues learning—and learning to learn.”2 It seems that at our current moment in educational history, we find a meeting of minds from engineering schools, professional communication programs, and industry on at least one issue: to effectively teach engineering and communication, schools and industry need to collaborate on ends and means.
This increasing interest in industry/academy collaboration positions teachers as mediators in the classroom, juggling needs and expectations from a number of parties: students, corporate partners, department faculty, potential employers, university research centers, etc. When considering this type of corporate/academic partnership for student projects, all parties involved need to carefully consider both the benefits and the limitations of such projects, as well as designing realistic outcomes for the students and the corporate partners. As a guiding principle in these considerations, it is helpful to keep David Lempert's advice in mind: "academic field sites should be places that can yield insight into particular social problems or research issues.”3 In other words, industry sites for class projects should first and foremost yield experiences that are beneficial for student learning. This idea may seem obvious, but it can get lost in the enthusiasm and demands of the project partnership. In the blush of enthusiasm as the project is first considered, teachers are in a mediator position of negotiating expectations from both industry and academy viewpoints.
Longo, B. (1998, June), Bridging Classrooms And Corporations Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/1-2--6941
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