Asee peer logo

Development and Implementation of Professional Communication Activities for Undergraduate Engineering Curricula Based upon Industry Expectations

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Undergraduate Students' Professional Skills and Reflection

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jacob Allen Cress P.E. University of Dayton Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Jacob Cress is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Management, Systems, and Technology. Prior to joining the faculty at UD, Dr. Cress worked for two years at Stress Engineering Services Inc. in Mason, Ohio. There he specialized in mechanical test development and project management largely in the railroad and hunting equipment sectors. For five years prior to that, Dr. Cress worked at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio, leading the certification effort for the LEAP-1A/1C HPC airfoil vibratory stress responses. Dr. Cress received his doctoral and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame, both in aerospace engineering; and his undergraduate bachelors of mechanical engineering degree from the University of Dayton.

visit author page


Patrick W. Thomas University of Dayton

visit author page

Dr. Patrick W. Thomas is Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs in English at the University of Dayton. His research interests include workplace literacy, writing technologies, empirical methodologies, computer-mediated communication, and professional and technical writing instruction. Since 2011, he has taught a variety of courses in the English department at the University of Dayton, including; digital writing, argumentation, composition theory, writing assessment, discourse analysis, technical communication, report and proposal writing, writing for the web, and social media. Dr. Thomas earned his PhD and MA in the Literacy, Rhetoric, and Social Practice program at Kent State University and his BA in English Education from Mercyhurst University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


This work-in-progress paper presents an ongoing evidence-based practice implementing integrative professional communication activities derived from an investigation of professional communication expectations of industry co-curricular partners. Contemporary pedagogical approaches, such as problem-based learning and entrepreneurially minded learning, have as a central focus the desire to expose students to authentic experiences which integrate technical knowledge with workplace skills connected to professionalism, communication, collaboration, and leadership. This approach can conflict with traditional engineering curricula where the instruction of technical skills are frequently separated or deemed more important than “soft skills” instruction in interpersonal, professional, and technical communication. Acknowledging that this divide persists in engineering education, this paper reports on an ongoing study of industry and academic expectations for engineering students’ professional communication to present the development and implementation of embedded professional communication topics in an engineering curricula. In prior work, observational data from interviews with human resource personnel, managers, and focus groups of early-career engineers at five companies of regional and national status reported on the genres commonly used in the workplace. The status of professional and interpersonal communication instruction was assessed in the current mechanical and civil engineering program curriculums at the University of Dayton, a mid-sized, private university in the Midwestern United States. Results indicated incongruities between current curricula and the expectations of industry partners in the areas of professional and interpersonal communication. This paper provides an overview of the development and implementation of two project-based assignments that address recommendations from industry partners within an integrative pedagogical approach that brings technical knowledge from engineering technology together with human-centered rhetorical knowledge from technical communication. Specifically, we report on the process of creating, implementing, and initial observations in evaluating a Specification Design Review assignment and a Heat Transfer Analysis assignment -- two separate technical communication activities in different courses within an engineering technology program. We provide a discussion of the desired technical and interpersonal communication skills each prototype activity is addressing and our procedures for implementing the assignments with students. In-progress results of students’ performance on each task is provided.

Cress, J. A., & Thomas, P. W. (2021, July), Development and Implementation of Professional Communication Activities for Undergraduate Engineering Curricula Based upon Industry Expectations Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36952

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: © 2021 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