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Building Piece by Piece: Teaching Engineering Leadership through Integrated Modules

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Curriculum in Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.308.1 - 26.308.6



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Paper Authors


Clinton Stephens Iowa State University

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Dr. Clinton M. Stephens is a lecturer for leadership education with the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. Currently, Stephens coordinates the Catt Center’s burgeoning leadership program and teaches classes in leadership development including CLPS 322, “Leadership Styles and Strategies in a Diverse Society.”

Stephens continues his research and dissemination work that focuses on student leadership development, specifically assessing the effectiveness of courses and workshops to develop participants’ leadership skills, directs the overall program and teaches the growing number of students in the program’s core courses.

Stephens completed a B.S. in Business Administration at Kansas State University in 2002, a M.S. in College Student Development at Oklahoma State University in 2005 and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration in 2012 at Iowa State University.

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Katherine Lynn Friesen College of Engineering, Iowa State University

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Katherine Friesen is a graduate teaching assistant with the College of Engineering, leadership certificate program at Iowa State University. She teaches three engineering leadership development courses in the context of individual, teams, and community. She advises a student leadership organization on campus and leads leadership workshop training.

Friesen is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education and administration at Iowa State University. She is actively researching teaching, learning and curriculum development in leadership studies, as well as assessment and evaluation of effective leadership education.

Friesen completed a B.S. in Secondary Education with a minor in Leadership Studies in 2011 and a M.S. in Leadership Studies at Marquette University in 2013.

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Teaching the Social Change Model of Leadership through Engineering Leadership Courses Industry needs for engineering graduates increasing include training in bothtechnical skills and leadership skills. The technical skills are necessary, butinsufficient to be successful in many engineering companies today. Further,engineering students are recognizing the importance of developing and practicingleadership skills during the undergraduate studies. Research shows these skills arebest learned in combination of academic courses and co-curricular practice(Guthrie & Osteen, 2013). However with current curricula structures in manyschools of engineering, there are few opportunities for engineering students toforgo an engineering course to take a course studying leadership. We haveaddressed these challenges directly on our campus and successfully implemented anew model of teaching engineering leadership while students continue to pursuetheir engineering degree and graduate on time. In this session we will move beyond a case study and share transferrableinsights, assessment tools, and curriculum to support engineering programsintegrating leadership education into their existing offerings. Attendees will departwith practical insights and resources to integrate into their existing engineeringcourses or develop a new class focused on engineering leadership development. For our framework in developing curriculum we use Astin and Astin’sSocial Change Model of Leadership (1996), the most widely-used theoreticalmodel taught in leadership education (Owen, 2012). This model offers threeleadership perspectives—individual, group, and community—which we developedinto three modules that can be taken in any sequence for engineering students tostudy leadership in each perspective when students are ready. In the individual perspective engineering students increase their self-awareness through values identification, outcomes planning, and feedback. Self-leadership characteristics are identified and enhanced through assessments,introspection, and developing goals to strengthen the congruence of one’s valuesand actions. The group perspective engages students with team development activitieswhere students apply what they are studying regarding group processes. Teamsidentify a shared set of norms, develop team goals, and complete a 360 evaluationfor completed outcomes. The community perspective provides students a context through studentorganization practicums to apply leadership theory and practices. Students create astrategic plan for the organization’s future by evaluating their purpose andfunction, member roles and responsibilities, and framework for organizationaldynamics. Finally a capstone experience is provided to advanced engineering studentswho are ready to deepen their understanding and tie together all three perspectives.In this capstone, students study leadership through the lifetime experiences ofseasoned engineers. They discuss case studies and ask difficult questions withretired executives, astronauts, and the Dean of the Engineering College. Meeting the industry needs for engineering graduates with both technicalskills and leadership skills is challenging. This session will engage participants indiscussions of weaving leadership education into their existing rigorouscurriculum. We will provide participants with insights we learned, assessmenttools available, and access to curriculum to support their own engineeringprograms in teaching leadership skills alongside the technical skills. ReferencesAstin, H. S., & Astin, A. W. (1996). A social change model of leadership development: Guidebook: Version III: Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.Guthrie, K. L., & Osteen, L. K. (2013). Developing Students' Leadership Capacity: New Directions for Student Services, Number 140: Wiley.Owen, J. E. (2012). Using student development theories as a conceptual framework in leadership education. In K. Guthrie & L. Osteen (Eds.), Developing Student Leadership Capacity (pp. 17-36). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stephens, C., & Friesen, K. L. (2015, June), Building Piece by Piece: Teaching Engineering Leadership through Integrated Modules Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23647

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