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Identifying Engineering Leadership Potential During the On-Campus Recruiting Process

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Student and Other Views on Engineering Leadership

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

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Paper Authors


Meg Handley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Meg Handley is currently the Associate Director for Engineering Leadership Outreach at Penn State University. 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 PhD candidate in Workforce Education at Penn State, where she is focusing on interpersonal behaviors and their impact on engineering leadership potential.

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 knowledge of leadership to impact their successful transition to the workplace.

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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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Recruiters’ perspectives are important in determining the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at building relevant engineering leadership skills in undergraduate engineering students. Recruiters are responsible for evaluating and identifying talent appropriate for today’s dynamic global environment. This study aims to understand, from the recruiters’ perspective, the important engineering leadership behaviors an engineering student needs to communicate during the on-campus recruiting process. Additionally, it will identify what undergraduate activities or programs recruiters’ value in demonstrating important engineering leadership behaviors. The study uses a qualitative interview approach to generate themes of engineering leadership behaviors that employers seek to understand during the recruiting process as well as strategies recruiters use to identify engineering leadership potential.

Employers were asked to complete a qualitative interview questionnaire during their participation in the 2015-2016 recruiting activities at a large public institution. Interview questions explored the strategies recruiters use to identify engineering leaders, what engineering leadership behaviors are important for students to communicate, and student experiences that alert an employer of engineering leadership potential. To date, 25 short answer questionnaires have been collected with ongoing efforts to obtain further data. A list of themes will be generated using the constant comparative method and open and axial coding process outlined by Strauss & Corbin (1998). Triangulation of data will be achieved through an independent focus group consisting of experienced engineering recruiters to verify the themes identified in the qualitative questionnaire. Utilizing these steps will provide a structure for precise and complete analysis of the data with validation through the triangulation process.

Results from this study will inform engineering leadership educators on how employers perceive students’ leadership capabilities in the early-stages of their careers relevant to the engineering industry. Results of this study will also inform engineering undergraduate students on how best to convey engineering leadership competencies during the recruiting process. Findings can be added to the growing literature aimed at developing and assessing the engineering leadership competencies required by industry.

Handley, M., & Lang, D., & Erdman, A. M. (2016, June), Identifying Engineering Leadership Potential During the On-Campus Recruiting Process Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25521

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