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Engineering Management: The Practical Discipline

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1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.174.1 - 2.174.8



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Taggart Smith

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2542

Engineering Management: The Practical Discipline

Taggart Smith School of Technology, Purdue University

A headline in USA Today caught my eye: "Education gaps leave graduates ill-prepared." 1 The lead stated: "College graduates enter the work force with strong technical skills but aren't very good at communicating, being part of a team or accepting ambiguity, among other things." The "other things" included ethics and global awareness. The report was the result of a study done by the Task Force on High-Performance Work and Workers, sponsored by the Business-Higher Education Forum, affiliated with the American Council on Education. 2 This sentiment was expressed earlier in the halls of The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) via the 1995 National Science Foundation report Restructuring Engineering Education, as well as a Prism article on Pennsylvania State University. The university's Leonhard Center for the Innovation and Enhancement of Engineering Education has funded a new leadership minor, which Director Jack Matson described: "There are five basic things the world tells us we need to do to radically improve engineering education: . . . to enhance communication skills, increase international outlook, broaden understanding of business, encourage creativity, and call attention to ethical concerns regarding technology and society." 3

Is the study of engineering management including these improvements? To answer this question and to look at the "differences" in the discipline of engineering management (EM), I polled an assortment of practitioners familiar with field literature to find the most well-known programs. I then asked representatives from the programs to send their most recent plans of study. In this paper I will look for similarities and differences in course requirements for popular programs in engineering management. The search theme is to discover the subject areas important in the preparation of our discipline's graduates, especially the five areas of communication, business, creativity,teamwork, ethics, and international concerns.

Brief History of Engineering Management

Dr. Dundar F. Kocaoglu, Director of Engineering Management at Portland State University, has made a longitudinal study of the discipline and has written extensively. His paper, "Education for Leadership in Management of Engineering and Technology," 4 describes the origins of the field as an industrial management program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1913. The field grew slowly in terms of developing coursework and in becoming established as a professional area of expertise until the oil crisis of the 1970s. Apparently, so long as conditions remained static, traditional education sufficed; however, when international forces created a changing American business environment and changing technology, engineering management came into its own as an important discipline. Former technical specialists had to become technical managers of people, as well as projects and technology. In short, simply having cutting-edge technology was not enough to keep America on the forefront of business and industry; managing that technology and the resources required to maintain it became important--

Smith, T. (1997, June), Engineering Management: The Practical Discipline Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6544

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