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Engineering Ambassador Network: Professional Development of the Engineering Ambassadors

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Communication, Professional Development, and the Engineering Ambassador Network

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.498.1 - 23.498.10



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Paper Authors

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Catherine Talbot


Michael Alley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering communication at Pennsylvania State University. He serves on the advisory board of the Engineering Ambassador Network. With Melissa Marshall and Christine Haas, he teaches advanced presentation skills to Engineering Ambassadors in workshops across the country.

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Melissa Marshall Pennsylvania State University, University Park


Christine Haas Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Christine Haas has worked for non-profits and higher education institutions for the past eight years. As the Director of Operations for Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Engineering, she managed operations and strategic initiatives for the newly formed Office of the Dean of Engineering. As Director of Marketing for Drexel College of Engineering, she oversaw an extensive communication portfolio and branding for seven departments and programs. Christine currently consults with engineering and science related institutions to advise on best practices in communication, from presentations to print. Haas received her M.B.A. in marketing and international business from Drexel University and her B.A. in English and Film from Dickinson College.

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Sarah E Zappe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Sarah E. Zappe is Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State University. In her current position, Dr. Zappe is responsible for supporting curricular assessment and developing instructional support programs for faculty in the College of Engineering. In her research role, Dr. Zappe is interested in the integration of creativity into the engineering curriculum, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Dr. Zappe holds a doctorate in educational psychology specializing in applied testing and measurement. Her measurement interests include the development of instruments to measure the engineering professional skills and using qualitative data to enhance the response process validity of tests and instruments.

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Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia

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Engineering Ambassador Network: Professional Development of the Engineering Ambassadors As indicated through an ASME survey given to more than 1000 mechanicalengineers working in industry,1 a compelling need exists for engineers to develop strongcommunication skills. While most mechanical engineering programs includecommunication in the curriculum, the range of audiences and the types of communicationtaught are both limited and often do not include public speaking. Another important skillfor engineering students to develop is leadership, which is typically not directlyaddressed in engineering curricula. These two skills of leadership and communication are particularly important forprofessional engineers who move into leadership positions both in industry and inacademia. Given that women are woefully under-represented in these leadershippositions—even more under-represented than they are as undergraduates, graduatestudents, and entry level professionals—these two skills are important to foster in femaleengineering students. The Engineering Ambassador Network, which began in 2009 at Penn State andwhich now has programs at 21 engineering colleges across the United States, can bethought of as a network of professional development programs for undergraduatestudents. These skills are developed in a number of ways. One is through the advancedcoaching on presentations that the Ambassadors receive. This coaching presentstechniques that are on the forefront of a revolution in the way that engineers present theirwork—in particular, the assertion-evidence approach2–3 and the TED-style approach topresentations.4–5 A second way that students develop these skills is through the outreachmissions of the Network in giving presentations on what engineers do at middle and highschools. Often speaking to more than 100 middle and high school students in a singleday, the Ambassadors hone their presentation skills in the trenches. Third, theEngineering Ambassadors develop leadership skills through formal training of importantprinciples such as becoming a linchpin6 in an organization and through leadershipactivities such as the Archer Center Student Leadership Program at RensselaerPolytechnic Institute.7 This paper presents an assessment of how much Engineering Ambassadorstypically develop these skills in their programs. In this paper, we focus on thedevelopment that we have measured at the four member schools: Penn State, RensselaerPolytechnic Institute, University of Connecticut, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.Included in this assessment are quantitative measures such as pre- and post-surveys andqualitative measures such as interviews and focus groups.References1. ASME (2010). Vision 2030 survey given to ASME members working in industry.2. Michael Alley & Kathryn A. Neeley (2005). Rethinking the design of presentation slides: A case for sentence headlines and visual evidence. Technical Communication, 52 (4), 417-426.3. Michael Alley (2013). The Craft of Scientific Presentations, 2nd ed. New York: Springer- Verlag.4. Nancy Duarte (2011). Resonate. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.5. Garr Reynolds (2008). Presentation Zen. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.6. Seth Godin (2011). Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? New York: The Penguin Group.7. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1996). Archer Center for Student Leadership Development. (Troy, New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute).

Talbot, C., & Alley, M., & Marshall, M., & Haas, C., & Zappe, S. E., & Garner, J. K. (2013, June), Engineering Ambassador Network: Professional Development of the Engineering Ambassadors Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19512

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