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First Impressions: Evaluating Student Performance in Demonstrating Engineering Leadership

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Insights and Practices for Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

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Paper Authors


Meg Handley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Handley is currently the Associate Director of Engineering Leadership Outreach in the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs at Penn State University. Meg received her PhD from Penn State University in Workforce Education where she studied interpersonal behaviors associated with engineering leadership. At Penn State, Meg teaches in the undergraduate Engineering Leadership Development Minor and the Engineering Leadership and Innovation Management graduate program. Previously, Meg served as the Director of the Career & Corporate Connection’s office at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. Meg is a board certified coach with experience in developing students’ leadership and professional competencies through teaching and one-on-one coaching. She is most interested in developing student competencies in leadership to impact their successful transition to the workplace and career success.

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Dena Lang Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Lang is currently the Associate Director of the Engineering Leadership Research Program at Penn State University. She holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University, an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in Kinesiology with a focus on Biomechanics from Penn State University. Dr. Lang's previous professional experiences and research interests range from mechanical engineering facilities design to research that applied engineering and molecular biology approaches to the study of the skeletal response to mechanical loading. As a Mechanical Engineer, she worked on facility design projects involving mechanical systems that included heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and energy conservation systems, as well as R&D of air conditioning equipment for Navy ships. Additional research interests have included the investigation of relationships among components of the indoor environment, occupants, and energy usage. Specifically, the effects of the indoor environment on occupant health and well-being and in parallel, how socially-mediated energy-saving strategies can increase awareness of energy use and/or increase energy saving behaviors. Dr. Lang's current research interests focus on identifying, assessing, and developing key skills, knowledge, attitudes, and other intrinsic and extrinsic factors required for engineers to effectively lead others, particularly other engineers and across cultures.

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Andrew Michael Erdman The Pennsylvania State University

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Andrew M. "Mike" Erdman received his B.S. in Engineering Science from Penn State and his M.S. from USC. Erdman has also taken courses at RPI, Union, UCLA, UCSB, MIT, and Dartmouth. At Rocketdyne (Pratt & Whitney), he helped design the Space Shuttle. As manager of Reactor Safety Analysis, Experimental Engineering, and Fluid Dynamics Technology at KAPL (Lockheed Martin), he conducted research for Naval Reactors. He currently serves as the Walter L. Robb director of Engineering Leadership and as an instructor in Engineering Science at Penn State.
Erdman has chaired the local Jaycees, Department of Social Services Advisory Council, GE Share Board, and Curling Club; and served on the Human Services Planning Council, United Way, Chamber of Commerce, and Capital Fund Drive Boards of Directors. Erdman has also lectured on leadership topics at Penn State and RPI. He returned to campus frequently as a recruiter (25 years) for GE and Lockheed Martin, serving on the Penn State College of Engineering Advisory Council, helped establish an Alumni Advisory Board, and currently serves as the President of the College of Engineering Alumni Society. Affiliations include the Penn State Alumni Association, Centre County Chapter Board of Directors, President’s Club, Nittany Lion Club, ASEE, ASME, AIAA, AKC, GRCA. He has been honored with a LMC/KAPL Leadership Award, GE Phillippe Award, PSEAS Outstanding service award, Jaycee International Senatorship, and an ESM Centennial Fellowship.

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ABET’s accreditation standards revised in 2001 highlight the importance of including technical and non-technical components in engineering curriculum. Employers also identify non-technical skills, such as leadership, as top qualities contributing to attractive candidates during the on-campus recruiting process. In a previous study, the authors identified three themes from recruiters’ perspectives that demonstrate engineering leadership potential during a career fair: communication, connection, and confidence. There are two primary purposes of this study. The first is to describe an active learning environment for engineering leadership classrooms engaging employers and simulating the career fair experience. The second is to utilize the active learning environment to collect feedback from recruiters on students’ performance in demonstrating their engineering leadership based on the themes generated from the previous study.

Students participated in a mock career fair during an engineering leadership course. Data were collected over two semesters. During class time, 24 recruiters from five different companies participated in a mock career fair for four sections of an engineering leadership course. During the mock career fair, recruiters heard the students’ 30-second pitch, provided verbal feedback to the students, and rated the students’ effectiveness on demonstrating engineering leadership in their 30-second pitch on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest rating. At the end of the mock career fair, recruiters filled out a three question survey to provide feedback on the importance of the themes generated from the XXX (2016) career fair study as well as determine which of the themes contributed most to a high rating of students’ 30-second pitch during the mock career fair event.

This study is important as it seeks to support recruiter-identified themes related to demonstrating engineering leadership during career fair interactions. Supporting these themes helps to inform leadership development programs as to the important behaviors engineering leadership students should be demonstrating during recruiting events. This study provides a perspective of how leadership students present themselves and characterize their leadership skills to potential employers. Recruiters, as one of the first observers of engineering leadership graduates outside of academic programs, provide feedback on interactions with students related to their communication of engineering leadership potential. Engineering leadership educators can benefit from these findings to support student knowledge and professional skill development aligning with ABET requirements and industry needs.

Handley, M., & Lang, D., & Erdman, A. M. (2017, June), First Impressions: Evaluating Student Performance in Demonstrating Engineering Leadership Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28362

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