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How To Help Senior Chemical Engineering Students Enhance And Develop Their Leadership Competence

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Developing Communication/Teamwork Skills in ChEs

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.673.1 - 13.673.19



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Paper Authors


Joan Alabart University Rovira i Virgili

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Joan R. Alabart is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV). He received a B.Ch. and a Ph.D. from the University of Barcelona and an MBA from ESADE (Barcelona). His research, consultative, and training projects interests focus on the areas of Organizational Effectiveness and Leadership. He is co-founder and director of the Master in Business Administration program at the URV.

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Sibel Özgen University Rovira i Virgili

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Sibel Özgen is currently a Research Assistant doing her Ph.D. at the Department of Chemical Engineering of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. She received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Ege University, Izmir, Turkey. She also received her M.Sc. in Chemical and Process Engineering from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in 2007. Her research interests include competency assessment, competency development, leadership, feedback 360 degrees, and teamwork.

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Magda Medir University Rovira i Virgili

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Magda Medir is Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. She received a BSCh from the IQS (Barcelona), a MASc from the University of Toronto, and a BSChE and a ScD from the University of Barcelona. She is the director of the Chemical Education for public Understanding Program in Spain and her research interests are related to science and engineering education.

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Hans-Joerg Witt Witt & Partner

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Hans-Joerg Witt is currently the President of Witt & Partner, a consulting company specialized in Organizational Effectiveness and Change Management. Before that, he worked 25 years for a global petrochemical company and served in various manufacturing positions in Operations before joining Human Resources as an internal consultant. He led the internal consulting profit centre as Global Director of Organizational Effectiveness, servicing more than 25 countries across the world. A chemical engineer by education, he received his Ph.D. degree from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

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

How to Help Senior Chemical Engineering Students Enhance and Develop Their Leadership Competence


Chemical engineering students at the University Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain) have the opportunity to enhance and develop their leadership competence by taking on a team leadership role in a first-year integrated design project. All fourth-year students enrolled for the Project Management in Practice (PMP) course go through a comprehensive team leader selection process. This selection process involves doing three psychometric tests (Belbin, Myers-Briggs, and Leadership Styles) and a competency-based interview with all the PMP’s instructors. Finally, a group of about a dozen students are chosen to lead teams formed of first-year students and to manage the design project in which all first-year courses actively participate (hence the adjective of integrated). First-year team member selection is done by team leaders who develop their own selection criteria and take into account first-year students’ Belbin roles. The PMP course, like the first-year integrated design project, lasts two consecutive 15-week periods with 4 class hours per week. One hour is reserved for the individual coaching process between a PMP instructor and his/her assigned team leaders. Two more hours are devoted to teaching leadership, project management, and facilitation concepts, techniques, and tools. The remaining class hour is devoted to the weekly formal meeting of leaders with the first-year project team. Hence, there is also a vertical integration between the PMP course and the first-year integrated design project. The assessment of the team leaders’ leadership competence is carried out at the individual and team levels. At the individual level, the following processes are in place: (a) a 360-degree feedback process, (b) project management reports (a team charter and a final report per period), oral presentations (one presentation per period), (c) learning journals, (d) behavioral event interviews, and (e) focus groups with team members. Team effectiveness is measured by: (a) a team climate survey, (b) the evaluation of project products (a design report and a poster or an oral presentation followed by a defense), and (c) focus groups with first-year instructors.


In 1996, the fourth-year Project Management in Practice (PMP) course was created as an elective in the Chemical Engineering program at the University Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain). The creation of this course responded to two needs although, actually, one of them was much more compelling than the other. Four instructors teaching three first-year chemical engineering courses - Transport Phenomena, Fluid Mechanics, and Transport Phenomena Laboratory - wanted their students to carry out an integrated design project based on a lactose recovery plant.1 The integrated design project approach devised by these instructors was based on a combination of project-based and cooperative learning methodologies.2 First-year students were organized into 23 teams formed of 5-6 members. The challenge for these instructors was how to provide strong leadership to these project teams, as team leadership is one of the key elements to guarantee project teams’ success. The allocation of several professors to tutor each team was not practical, given the constraints of limited faculty staff and budget. Then, it was thought that senior students might take on that role. Given that there was a compulsory Project Management course assigned to the fourth year of the program, a new course that enabled fourth-year students to simulate the practice of a project manager was thought to be a great idea. In this way, the idea of project

Alabart, J., & Özgen, S., & Medir, M., & Witt, H. (2008, June), How To Help Senior Chemical Engineering Students Enhance And Develop Their Leadership Competence Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3634

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