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Engineering the Future – Communicating Across Borders Through Elevator Pitches

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2020 First-Year Engineering Experience


East Lansing, Michigan

Publication Date

July 26, 2020

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July 26, 2020

End Date

July 28, 2020

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Debjani Sarkar College of Engineering, Michigan State University

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Ms Debjani Sarkar is an academic teaching specialist in the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. She teaches Technical Writing for Engineers and Scientists at MSU. She also leads the communications and marketing activities of the first-year engineering CoRe Experience. She supervises the College of Engineering Tutoring Center, which offers free tutoring in Calculus, Physics, and Chemistry for undergraduate engineering students. She has taught Business Communications in other countries including Aalto University, Finland, and at IIT Kanpur, India.

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This abstract is a GIFTS presentation. It can be considered under the category of Diversity and Inclusion.

Our first-year engineering students are goal oriented and not deterred by any levels of technicality. But when it comes to sharing their knowledge, they do face challenges in communicating concisely, logically, and persuasively. Communication is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, and this skill will enhance the quality of their first-year engineering experience.

This need can be addressed by teaching our first-year engineering students to make elevator pitches. Through their pitches, our freshmen engineering students can get to introduce themselves, let their peers know who they are, what they do, and why its important to them. They will learn to give an overview of themselves in a concise manner and in doing so, they may create bonds with other students of diverse backgrounds which may spark interests in their personal and professional stories and help them discover and cherish somethings in common.

An elevator pitch is one of the simplest yet most powerful tools for our freshmen students to bond, socialize, and network. But the intangible and hidden benefits are far more overwhelming. This tool can enrich their learning experience by increasing their connectivity and inclusivity. Along with breaking communication barriers, they can immediately develop a sense of belonging towards their peers who may come from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds and who may share common interests, beliefs, and hobbies.

For a freshman, an elevator pitch may not only be a compelling tool to talk about oneself, but it may also help break the ice in many networking situations. They will get connected and engaged in personal, social, and professional networking situations. Effective and precise communication skills in turn will boost our first-year students’ team performance, grit, leadership skills, and team building skills.

A variety of novel techniques can be implemented to teach and assess communication skills through the delivery of elevator pitches. Students can pitch with dorm mates, peers, and outsiders in their dorms, cafetarias, on elevators, corridors, etc. and be observed by peers, who can then provide feedback. Peer review can be in the form of a report or an executive summary, which is another innovative method of enhancing writing skills. They can face mock interviews or attend mock career networking events in an active learning environment in class, with peers enacting as hiring managers, company managers, researchers, and so on. By playing the greetings’ game with the first person they meet in the classroom, by improvising around their well-crafted introduction, and by tailoring their pitches, they can make these interesting, succinct, and memorable. These assessment-based activities can be incorporated in the first-year engineering design, communication, writing, or career related curriculum.

Thus, the concept of connecting and engaging through elevator pitches could be an innovative yet fundamental pathway for us to build our future engineers into better team players and global communicators.

Sarkar, D. (2020, July), Engineering the Future – Communicating Across Borders Through Elevator Pitches Paper presented at 2020 First-Year Engineering Experience, East Lansing, Michigan.

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