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Co-op Education and the Impact on the Behaviors and Competencies of Undergraduate Engineering Students

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 1 - Skill and Competency Development through the Co-op Experience

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

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Paper Authors


Nassif E. Rayess University of Detroit Mercy

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Nassif Rayess is Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering at University of Detroit Mercy. He was part of the efforts to introduce entrepreneurially minded learning to the University as part of the KEEN Network and Engineering Unleashed. He is also directly involved in the curricular elements of the co-op program at the University, and teaches the professional development courses that bookends the co-op semesters. He received his Ph.D. from Wayne State University and joined Detroit Mercy in 2001.

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David Pistrui University of Detroit Mercy

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David Pistrui, Ph.D., is an executive, entrepreneur, and educator with over 30 years of experience serving the corporate, nonprofit, and education sectors. In 1993, David founded Acumen Dynamics, LLC, a global advisory firm that serves the public and private sectors.

David has held faculty appointments at University of Detroit Mercy, Fayetteville State University, and Illinois Institute of Technology, He has co-authored over 60 publications in the areas of growth strategies, family business, and engineering.

David has held corporate leadership positions with VideoCart, MediaOne, Parade Publications, Time Inc., and Purex Industries. He has worked with a wide range of organizations including Tenneco, KPMG, Motorola, Wrigley, IBM, Comarch, GrubHub, Minnetronix, Cleversafe, Siemans, and Dentsu, among many others.

David holds a Ph.D. (Cum Laude) in Applied Economics, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, a Ph.D., in Sociology from the University of Bucharest, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from DePaul University, and a Bachelor of Business Administration, in Marketing and Economics from Western Michigan University.

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Ron Bonnstetter Target Training International

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Dr. Ron Bonnstetter serves as the senior vice president of research and development for Target Training International. With a bachelor’s from Mankato State University, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Iowa and decades of award-winning teaching and research at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Bonnstetter has amassed an arsenal of recognition and research, including the first recipient of the National Senior Outstanding Science Educator of the Year Award and the only secondary science preparation program recognized in the national Search for Excellence in Science Education. Dr. Bonnstetter was honored with the 2019-2020 Joe Kamiya First-Person Science Award during the annual conference of the International Society of Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR). The award is named in honor of Dr. Joe Kamiya who was the first to document the ability to noninvasively alter brain wave activity by using a simple reward system and is considered the father of modern neurofeedback.

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Eric T. Gehrig Target Training International

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Dr. Eric Gehrig is currently Vice President of Research and Development for Target Training International, Ltd. Dr. Gehrig's educational background includes bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in pure mathematics from Arizona State University. Since 2003, Dr. Gehrig has held various consulting and research roles in areas of supply chain management, banking, finance, economic modeling, and psychometric assessment research and development.

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This paper presented the early results of a study to measure the transformation of engineering students as they matriculate through the curriculum at the University, which has a required co-op program consisting of a three semester-long co-op rotation. For data collection, TTI’s TriMetrix® DNA assessment suite was used. The TTI survey is designed to increase the understanding of an individual's talents in three distinct areas: competencies, driving forces and behavioral traits. The survey was first administered to incoming freshmen students (within four weeks of entering college) and then again at the beginning of junior year after the students have completed two co-op rotations. A pairwise longitudinal comparison was conducted on twenty engineering students (14 males and 6 females with 5 of the students being from underrepresented minorities) that took the survey as freshmen in Fall 2017 and then again as juniors in Fall 2019. The study revealed significant changes in the behavioral traits of the individuals in the 20-student sample, but the changes did not exhibit discernable patterns and could not be reliably correlated with elements of the co-op experience. Regardless, the observed behavioral traits have proven valuable in mentoring students and directing them towards the type of work that they are best suited for. As for the changes in competencies (25 competencies in total), there was a marked increase in fifteen competencies (over 10%) including a very large increase (over 25%) in four competencies: conceptual thinking; decision making; futuristic thinking; and, self-starting. There was also a decrease in four competencies: appreciating others; conflict management; goal orientation; and, interpersonal skills. After correlating these changes with the co-op reflection essays of the twenty students, a statistical correlation was found between the decrease in the “conflict management” competency and the severity of conflicts reported by the students during co-op. This finding raises the possibility that impressionable engineering students could be susceptible when faced with difficult conflicts while on co-op. Additional measures such as engaging co-op employers on the subject and monitoring the well-being of the students while on co-op are needed. There was little or no correlation between the severity of conflict and the other three decreased competencies.

Rayess, N. E., & Pistrui, D., & Bonnstetter, R., & Gehrig, E. T. (2020, June), Co-op Education and the Impact on the Behaviors and Competencies of Undergraduate Engineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34294

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