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Completing the Pass: Leadership 'On' and 'In' the Field

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Engineering Leadership

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

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Paper Authors


Mary B. Vollaro Western New England University

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Mary B. Vollaro is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Vollaro received her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, her M.S. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and her B.S.M.E. at Western New England University. She has held engineering positions in industry (in particular, the materials science area) and was Chair of the ASEE Materials Division. She has written in the area of materials science education and is now working on leadership and teaming activities for engineers.

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Robert R. Klein Western New England University

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Robert R. Klein, Ed.D., is a Professor of Education at Western New England University (Springfield, MA). He completed his doctoral work at Harvard and collaborated with the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT) to develop an assessment tool, the Klein Group Instrument for Effective Leadership and Participation in Teams (KGI). He trains people internationally in leadership and group skills and is a faculty member of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Throughout the university community, opportunities abound in extracurricular activities to develop professional skills, specifically, leadership and teaming, and these provide unique crossover experiences for engineers. Our pilot program partners with the university’s football team where scholar athletes, i.e., the engineers, are coached in leadership skills that apply to group situations on and off the field. Each participant in the program completes an instrument on group skills and is supplied with his own personal profile, identifying his strengths and areas for improvement. Our study looks at two different populations of engineers, highlighted by our three senior football captains, who receive intensive leadership coaching, and our eleven freshmen players, who participate in our regular training provided to all freshman engineers. We examine the impact of the intensive training for the upperclassmen and the influence of the more general training on the first year students. We explore how the process of leadership development can be strengthened by a dual application—participation on the football team and involvement in professional training in labs and in the workplace. Through personal interviews and surveys, we consider the experiences of these two subgroups with the goal of refining our training to produce more flexible, competent leaders. To date, our results show the captains’ intensive training has significantly increased their awareness of their own behaviors and that of others. They have learned to analyze group dynamics in a more astute manner and make interventions that promote higher team performance. They have refined their observational, communication, and interpersonal skills. Their qualitative feedback indicates they have also applied these new skills on their engineering teams, and with their engineering internship experiences. With our freshman engineers, highlighting the connection between their team interactions on the gridiron and their first engineering design project has increased their motivation to pay attention and to implement their new group skills in a serious manner. Lessons learned here will benefit future development of our program and provide scholar athletes with a stronger social awareness, and an ability to generalize the leadership skills to a broad array of professional contexts. They are able to pay special attention to the transferability of leadership and teaming skills between the two ‘fields’, thus, completing the pass!

Vollaro, M. B., & Klein, R. R. (2016, June), Completing the Pass: Leadership 'On' and 'In' the Field Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26546

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