New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Engineering Leadership Development Division
Engineering leadership education is growing rapidly in North American universities. However, there are significant differences in organizational identity, strategy and focus. In order for program leaders to effectively learn from each other, there is a need to frame the key distinctions between initiatives.
Most engineering leadership publications to date have described individual programs. In 2009 there was a snapshot of the whole field internationally  but things have changed substantially since then. A recent paper has looked at differences in program goals and targeted competencies , but this only explains part of how programs function. This paper seeks to fill a gap by looking at a wider range of organizational factors that influence and define engineering leadership initiatives. Relevance to Engineering Leadership:
This paper proposes core organizational dimensions with which university-based engineering leadership initiatives can be characterized. Methodology:
The findings in this paper came from 14 semi-structured interviews with senior leaders of North American engineering leadership initiatives (centers, institutes or programs). Interviewees were chosen through a purposive sample, based on membership in the Community of Practice for Leadership Education of the Twenty-first Century Engineer (COMPLETE).
Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and a qualitative data structure was developed to capture similar information for each university. From this a set of seven dimensions emerged to conceptually distinguish the initiatives.
The seven dimensions are described below, along with a view of the spectrum and range of programmatic approaches.
1. End goal: from economic impact (engineers leading technical organizations to create growth) to social impact (engineers working towards social change). Wide spectrum of goals observed. 2. Scale of leadership: from individual to organizational. Mostly individual scale. 3. Leadership emphasis: from leadership as a process to leadership as a position. More weight towards process, but many blended approaches found. 4. Content focus: from theory (deeper conceptual understanding) to practice (developing leadership skills and practices). Mostly practice. 5. Participant size/selection: from inclusive (all engineering students targeted/included) to exclusive (small, application-based programs). Mostly exclusive. 6. Institutional recognition of programs: from core curriculum (required courses for academic credit) to elective courses and co-curricular offerings (over and above ‘core’ coursework). Mostly elective/co-curricular. 7. Level of integration: from integrated (leadership intertwined with engineering science/design) to separate (leadership taught separately in different classes). Mostly separate. Recommendations and Implications:
Looking at these dimensions together, we can segment the growing numbers of engineering leadership programs into sub-groups. More detailed analysis may reveal patterns of growth (and evolution) trajectories that newer programs can learn from. The framework can guide engineering professors to help find others who have integrated leadership into individual technical courses, while administrators can learn about the full range of strategic options when it comes to investing in leadership education.
Leaders of existing leadership initiatives can reflect on their own organizations and identify which peers they want to learn from. Curriculum designers and accreditation bodies can look at how leadership is currently being integrated to reflect on how their current mindset is pulling leadership into the curriculum (or pushing it out).
1. Graham, R, Engineering leadership education: a snapshot review of international good practice. White paper sponsored by the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, 2010. 2. Paul, R., & Cowe Falls, L. G. Engineering Leadership Education: A Review of Best Practices Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Seattle, Washington, 2015.
Klassen, M., & Reeve, D., & Rottmann, C., & Sacks, R., & Simpson, A. E., & Huynh, A. (2016, June), Charting the Landscape of Engineering Leadership Education in North American Universities Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26486
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