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Engineering Leadership Education: A Review of Best Practices

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Curriculum in Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.634.1 - 26.634.11



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Paper Authors


Robyn Paul University of Calgary Orcid 16x16

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Robyn is a Master of Science candidate in Civil Engineering at the Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary. Her research focuses on the impact that teaching engineers leadership has on early career success. She co-founded the Engineering Education Students’ Society and is involved with initiatives to collaborate nationally to increase the conversation with students about engineering education.

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Lynne Gradon Cowe Falls P.Eng. University of Calgary

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Engineering Leadership Education: A Review of North American Best PracticesAbstractModern society is built by engineering accomplishments that seemed impossible only a coupledecades ago. As society thrives forward and a new generation of engineers is just around thecorner, the question becomes: are we properly educating our engineers for the future? In the past,intellectually talented engineers with strong technical skills were sufficient for the needs ofsociety. However, in the 21st century engineers are now working in the corporate world,disconnected from the “hands-on” aspect of engineering. Professional skills such as leadershiphave become critical for graduating engineers entering the workforce.The MIT Engineering Leadership highlights curriculum changes specific to leadership in their2009 report, Engineering leadership education: A snapshot review of international goodpractice.1 The report looked at 40 worldwide engineering leadership education programs. Onemain finding was that there is “a surprising dearth of resources, expertise, and formal networkscurrently available in the field of engineering leadership education.” This report was publishedfive years ago, and although the field has gained significant headway since then, there is still anevident lack of information and resources in engineering leadership education.This paper will present a review of North American engineering leadership education programs(including institutions, specializations, and courses) to provide an overview of current offerings,to compare variations in approaches, and to summarize examples of best practice.Initially, a literature review will assist in providing a clear definition of leadership, the qualitiesof a leader, the leadership process, and an overview of leadership theories. Next, the idea ofeducating and teaching others leadership will be explored, specifically within a context of 21stcentury engineering. In order to understand the effectiveness of teaching leadership, it will benecessary to address the issue of how to measure leadership. Key quantitative and qualitativemeasurement criteria of leadership will be defined, followed by an analysis of assessment toolsthat have been used in practice. The research up to here will provide a solid background as thegroundwork for the final section.The final section will summarize case studies of engineering institutions that currently haveleadership education programs, including dedicated departments, specializations or certifications,and individual courses or workshops. Each case will be compared against similar cases todetermine consistencies and variations within each program type. The results from this reviewwill provide an understanding of current offerings in engineering leadership and summarize bestpractices. Insight will be gained on the progress of the field of engineering leadership education,and areas that remain sparse will be highlighted.[1] Graham, R., Crawley, E., & Mendelsohn, B. (2009). Engineering leadership education: A snapshot review of internationalgood practice. White paper sponsored by the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. Retrieved from

Paul, R., & Cowe Falls, L. G. (2015, June), Engineering Leadership Education: A Review of Best Practices Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23972

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