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Developing Leadership Attitudes and Skills in Working Adult Technical Graduate Students: Research Interview Results with Alumni

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Professional Graduate Education and Industry

Tagged Divisions

College Industry Partnerships and Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.459.1 - 22.459.13



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Paper Authors


Ronald J. Bennett Univeristy of Saint Thomas

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Ronald J. Bennett. Ph.D., is Honeywell Fellow in Global Technology Management in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas after having served as the Founding Dean. He holds a Ph.D. in Metallurgical Engineering and an MBA. With a background of more than 20 years in industry, Bennett teaches and publishes on diverse topics including materials engineering, technical innovation, technology transfer, leadership and engineering education. He is an EAC of ABET commissioner for SME.

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Elaine R. Millam University of Saint Thomas

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Elaine R. Millam is a senior organizational consultant, executive coach and educator helping leaders to maximize their effectiveness. She has had over 30 years of leadership experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with Masters degrees in Educational Psychology (1980) and Industrial Relations (1982) and her doctorate in Organizational Leadership at UST (2004). She is a certified coach through the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara and serves on their adjunct faculty; she is also an associate with several other firms. She teaches leadership courses at The University of St. Thomas and other Universities as well as private businesses.

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DEVELOPING LEADERSHIP ATTITUDES AND SKILLS IN WORKING ADULT TECHNICAL GRADUATE STUDENTS: RESEARCH INTERVIEW RESULTS WITH ALUMNILeadership is not only a set of skills; it is also a set of attitudes. This paper documents the success ofdeveloping leadership skills and attitudes in graduate engineering students who are also full-timeworking adults in industry. Individual cases based on interviews with alumni are used and explainedin the context of their learning experience.At the ASEE annual conference in 2004, a paper was presented on the motivation for and the designof a series of courses that helped working adult graduate students assess their leadership capacityand skills, discussed the nature of the course and reported the results observed at that time. Sixadditional years of results have been observed and documented. Longitudinal research, focusing oninterviews with alumni of the program, has been conducted and shows remarkable demonstratedgrowth in their leadership progress. Accelerated by intentional self reflection and the creation oflifelong learning roadmaps, these alumni are now living their plan, demonstrating their leadership,and stretching themselves to develop others. We had some hunches about overall outcomes, andplanned to continue to monitor individual and collective outcomes as the students moved forward intheir learning pursuits. We proposed documenting the students’ stories of real-time learning andleading to help everyone know just how this process will affect life-long results. We have done justthat.At the time of the initial survey, students were excited about their learning pursuits, engaging othersto support them and beginning to demonstrate their leadership talents as they learned, stretched andgrew. They were feeling real strength and power in coming to better understand themselves andtaking charge of their own learning outcomes. With an additional six years experience, the power ofthis approach in releasing the leaders within is becoming much more clear and compelling. Alumniof this program are now convinced that this course has had a profound effect on the way they viewthe world as an interconnected system, on their role to lead and make a difference, and as a result haschanged the way they think.During the past year the authors have also conducted surveys of engineering school deans todetermine their views on the need for leadership education for engineers, and on their currentcapacity to deliver this kind of education. While only 25% of the schools responding said theyoffered leadership education for their graduate students, fully 100% felt leadership education forengineers was important. This paper will provide additional evidence of the success of the approachtaken, and the need to expand to other adult practicing engineers to become leaders, and show aproven process for delivering graduate leadership education to engineers. 440 words

Bennett, R. J., & Millam, E. R. (2011, June), Developing Leadership Attitudes and Skills in Working Adult Technical Graduate Students: Research Interview Results with Alumni Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17740

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