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Design, Implementation, and Outcomes of a Comprehensive Professional Development Program for Post-Graduate Studies in Engineering

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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

Graduate Programs, Development, and Research Fellowships

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Laleh Behjat P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Dr. Laleh Behjat is an associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her research interests include designing computer chips, electronic design automation and developing software for computer hardware. She has won several awards for her work on the development of software tools for computer engineering. In addition, Dr. Behjat has a passion for increasing the statues of women in Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Dr. Behjat was the recipient of 2015 Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) Women in Engineering Champion Award.

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Milana Trifkovic University of Calgary

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Milana Trifkovic is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum engineering at University of Calgary. Her research interests include process and material design and hierarchical control of complex processes.

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Robyn Paul University of Calgary Orcid 16x16

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Robyn is a Master's student researching engineering leadership education at the University of Calgary. She graduated from Manufacturing Engineering in 2011 and worked in industry for a few years before returning to school.

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Karen Andrea Canon-Rubio University of Calgary


Stephanie Hladik University of Calgary

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Stephanie Hladik is a M.Sc student in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Calgary. Through her research she is exploring topics related to the integration of engineering into K-12 curricula. In particular, she is interested in bringing electrical engineering, programming, and the engineering design process into K-12 education. Aside from her research, Stephanie also participates regularly in outreach programs to promote STEM topics in classrooms and beyond.

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Postgraduate engineering education allows students to gain expertise in a specific research area, but does not traditionally provide its graduates with the necessary professional skills. To bridge this gap, we designed two sequential Graduate Professional Development courses. This paper discusses the course content, assessments, the teaching methodologies, and its outcomes.

The courses are delivered through one weekly 75 min class (0.5 credit units) in the Fall and Winter terms. Currently, course enrolment is mandatory for graduate students in three of the University’s engineering departments (total of 153 students). The course is intentionally designed to require minimum preparation and homework while providing the maximum benefit.

The course content is split into five professional development modules that promote lifelong learning. Module 1 overviews the basics of Health & Safety including workplace health & safety practices, appropriate professional conduct, and mental health issues. The second module focuses on Communication Styles and Interpersonal Relationships. This module consists of interactive and engaging workshops on diverse issues such as supervisor relationships, personality styles, and respect in the workplace. Module 3 covers Presentation Skills and includes workshops which provide students with the skills to plan a presentation, present in front of a wide range of audiences, and create effective presentation visuals. The fourth module focuses on Research Methodologies. This module provides information on effective literature reviews, formulating research questions and hypothesizes, and effectively writing in a technical field. The last module topic is Life After Graduation, which gives students insight into topics such as intellectual property, entrepreneurship, life in industry or academia, and the career application process.

The modules’ materials are reinforced by assignments throughout the year. Examples of assignments include a 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) style presentation, an impact study, abstract writing, abstract reviewing, and a graduate student conference with oral presentations and posters. The assignments are not given numerical grades, but the students are provided with feedback from the Professors, TAs, as well as their peers.

All classes are conducted in an active learning environment with students engaging in individual and group activities. For the most effective delivery, a combination of on- and off-campus resources are used in the professional development courses.

The course outcomes are evaluated with respect to their effectiveness in enhancing students’ skills for a successful graduate and postgraduate career. To date, the total participation across departments is approximately 350 graduate students. The students have consistently ranked the classes as highly effective and an excellent learning experience. Starting in Fall 2015, we have been teaching the courses collaboratively across departments, providing a more supportive learning environment. These two courses provide an excellent platform for team teaching as instructional conversation is appropriate and the teachers are very comfortable with the material. End-of-term surveys be implemented to gain insight into the effectiveness of team teaching, determine the value of the course for students, and identify areas for further improvements.

Behjat, L., & Trifkovic, M., & Paul, R., & Canon-Rubio, K. A., & Hladik, S. (2016, June), Design, Implementation, and Outcomes of a Comprehensive Professional Development Program for Post-Graduate Studies in Engineering Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26690

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015