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Developing Engineers Who Lead: Are Student, Faculty, and Administrator Perspectives Aligned?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development Constituent Committee Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.401.1 - 24.401.17



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Paper Authors


Brian J. Novoselich Virginia Tech

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Brian Novoselich is an active duty Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. His is a former assistant professor at the United States Military Academy. His dissertation research interest is undergraduate student leadership development in capstone design teams.

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David B. Knight Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organizational change in colleges and universities, and international issues in higher education.

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Developing engineers who lead: Are student, faculty and administrator perspectives aligned?As society develops in an increasingly interconnected manner, the federal government andindustry have called for engineers to play a more prominent leadership role in business andpublic service. Increasing the technical literacy in higher levels of leadership may help shapedecisions which support well-informed, economically sustainable development. Becauseformative experiences during undergraduate years help engineers shape their professionalidentities, purposefully helping students cultivate their leadership skills should facilitate thatobjective. There is a dearth of engineering education literature on student leadership, however,and programs tend to rely on non-purposeful co-curricular or teaming experiences for itsdevelopment. Furthermore, the few studies on leadership in engineering also suggest that facultyand administrators lack consensus on the most effective way to foster its development.The purpose of this study is to investigate undergraduate engineers’ leadership development andto characterize the degree of alignment across different stakeholders in the system. As supportedby Terenzini and Reason’s (2005, 2010) College Impacts Framework, incorporating acomprehensive set of variables that encapsulate both organizational and students’ perspectives isessential to understand how student outcomes, such as leadership, may be developed during theundergraduate experience. We draw on a nationally representative data set that includesparticipants from 31 institutions from 120 undergraduate engineering programs. The data set iscomprised of the following: seven engineering disciplines (mechanical, electrical, industrial,chemical, civil, general, and bio/biomedical engineering), three levels of degree (bachelor’s,Master’s, doctorate), and two levels of control (public and private). For this paper, we mergedata collected from several stakeholder groups, including undergraduate students (n=5,249),faculty (n=1,119), program chairs (n=86), associate deans (n=29), and alumni (n=1,403).Our analyses explore these data in several ways. For the student survey, we correlate theirperceptions of their own leadership abilities with various aspects of their student experience,including topics emphasized in their courses, instructional strategies that they encountered incourses, and their participation in (and extent of leadership involvement) in co-curricularexperiences. For the alumni survey, we compare how their leadership skills developed withintheir undergraduate programs versus within their first three years in the workplace as well as theextent to which leadership skills were influenced in their curricula versus their importance in theworkplace. Faculty members, program chairs, and associate deans were all asked about theextent to which leadership should be emphasized in the undergraduate curriculum versus the co-curriculum. We compare each of these groups to produce a comprehensive map of the field’ssupport of leadership in undergraduate engineering and parse out results by respondents’ gender,race/ethnicity, discipline, faculty rank, and years in industry.This cross-sectional examination of undergraduate engineering education provides criticalinsight into the current state of undergraduate engineering student leadership development andacademia’s abilities to meet the need for technical-minded leaders to support the nation’s long-term development. Our results uncover barriers that must be addressed to incorporate additionalleadership development opportunities in the undergraduate experience and highlight current bestpractices that programs may expand as they seek to cultivate additional engineering leaders.

Novoselich, B. J., & Knight, D. B. (2014, June), Developing Engineers Who Lead: Are Student, Faculty, and Administrator Perspectives Aligned? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20292

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