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Filling in the Gaps: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Teaching Professional Competencies to Graduate Engineers (Work in Progress)

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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

Engineering Management Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.773.1 - 26.773.8



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Paper Authors


Christine G. Nicometo University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Christine Nicometo is the Program Director for Professional Literacies Courses in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Engineering Professional Development. She has taught technical communication online for over a decade as a faculty member in the following online programs: Master of Engineering Management; Master of Engineering in Engine Systems; Master of Engineering in Sustainable Systems. Her co-authored book on technical presentations, (SlideRules: Design, Build, and Archive Technical Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields), was published in 2014 by IEEE-Wiley.

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Jeffrey S. Russell University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Dr. Jeffrey S. Russell is the Vice Provost for Lifelong Learning and Dean of the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his role as Vice Provost, he is striving to make UW-Madison a global leader in the service to lifelong learners. He has held these dual responsibilities since 2011.

Jeff is currently leading a campus-wide strategic planning process focused on creating more transformative educational experiences for lifelong learners.

Jeff first joined UW-Madison’s faculty in 1989 as an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where he co-founded the Construction Engineering and Management Program and developed the construction curriculum. In addition, he has authored and co-authored papers on the subject of educating civil engineers. His body of work demonstrates his commitment to using emerging technology in the classroom to prepare the next generation of engineers and other students for the challenges of the future.

Jeff was honored in 2014 with an Outstanding Projects and Leaders Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from University of Cincinnati, master’s and doctoral degrees from Purdue University, and is a registered professional engineer in Wisconsin.

Jeff grew up in a construction family where his father ran the field operations for a small regional contractor in northeast Ohio. He spent his youth working in construction, learning the value of hard work, integrity, organization, and leadership. He has always respected the important role of labor in achieving project success.

Strongly influenced by his sister, who has Down syndrome, Jeff values the importance of family, the joys of life, and the appreciation of differences and diversity.

(608) 890-2318

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Filling in the Gaps: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Teaching Professional Competencies to Engineers  AbstractEmployer surveys continue to indicate that graduating engineers lack critical businesscompetencies and so-called “soft skills” to become high performers in their organizations. Evenmore concerning are reports that employers feel this competency gap is getting larger not smaller.Competencies commonly cited include communication skills (e.g., presentation, writing,interpersonal), creativity, various business topics (e.g., finance, negotiation, project management),and a number of others. Even in situations where engineers seek advanced engineering degrees,many of these required competencies go unaddressed. Often times, advanced engineering degreeshelp engineers to become technically more proficient, but neglect to address the professionalcompetencies that are so critical to engineers’ performance and career success.This paper presents an interdisciplinary approach to teaching basic professional competencies toengineering professionals. The approach leverages a multitude of teaching media including on-line lectures, case studies, videos, interviews, readings, and hands-on projects. The approachdescribed is interdisciplinary, both in terms of the instructors used as well as the heterogeneouscomposition of students. Targeted competencies and learning outcomes are outlined in detail,within a framework that allows for prioritizing based on needs analyses.This paper draws heavily upon industry surveys, depth interviews of hiring managers,competency modeling, NSF research, and several studies published by the ASEE. Theinstructional approach described is currently being implemented at a major research university inthe Midwest, as part of the university’s educational innovation initiative and life-long learningphilosophies. Pedagogy and assessment techniques are presented in detail.

Nicometo, C. G., & Russell, J. S. (2015, June), Filling in the Gaps: An Interdisciplinary Approach for Teaching Professional Competencies to Graduate Engineers (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24110

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: © 2015 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