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Implementation of an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum to Prepare 21st Century Leaders

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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

Student and Other Views on Engineering Leadership

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.906.1 - 26.906.12



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Paper Authors


Katherine Agnew Trevey Marquette University

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Ms. Trevey currently serves as the Director of Engineering Leadership Programs in the Opus College of Engineering at Marquette University. She has more than 10 years of experience creating leadership development programs for undergraduate students. In early 2014, she was hired to run the newly created E-Lead Program (a three-year people-focused, technical leadership program offered to undergraduate students in the College of Engineering). Her responsibilities include program administration, co-teaching the courses offered, and mentoring students in the program.

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Andrea L. Gorman Marquette University

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Andrea L. Gorman is the graduate assistant for Engineering Leadership Programs in the Opus College of Engineering at Marquette University. She received her bachelor of science in business in supply chain and operations management from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management and is pursuing a master of education in college student personnel administration at Marquette. As the graduate assistant for Engineering Leadership Programs, she assists with the administration and instruction of Engineers in the Lead (E-Lead), a people-centered, technical leadership program.

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Kristina M. Ropella Marquette University

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Kristina M. Ropella, Ph.D., is interim Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University. She received her bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering from Marquette and her master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University. She joined the biomedical engineering faculty in 1990 and served as the chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering from 2004 to 2013, when she was named the executive associate dean.
Ropella has focused her research and teaching career on biosignal processing, bioinstrumentation, computer applications in biomedical engineering, statistics and medical imaging. Current research interests, in collaboration with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), include developing clinical applications of functional magnetic resonance imaging, including presurgical planning and evaluation of rehabilitative outcomes after injury or pathology. Ropella is co-director of the Functional Imaging Ph.D. program, jointly offered with MCW.
Ropella has twice received the college’s Outstanding Teacher Award (1994 and 2002), the university Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence (2002) and was named the Wisconsin US Professor of the Year by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support for Education (2007). Among other honors, she was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 (2000) and Women of Influence (2008) awards. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and is currently serving on their board of directors, She has served on other national boards, including the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Council of Chairs in Biomedical Engineering, and the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

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Implementation of an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum to Prepare 21st Century LeadersWe have created a three-year leadership curriculum for undergraduate students enrolled in thecollege of engineering at a medium-sized, private, urban, religiously-affiliated university. Theobjectives of this people-focused, technical leadership program are to: (1) develop engineers whoare able to address 21st century global challenges; (2) prepare individuals to lead, not onlythrough innovation and technical expertise, but also through their ability to motivate, engage andguide people and organizations who represent the full range of diversity across the humanspectrum; and (3) educate and develop the leadership and character of outstanding engineeringstudents, who are able to lead technical teams in solving problems. In this paper, we presentcurriculum design, early results and recommendations from first year assessment of the programand plans for future programmatic elements and assessment.Students are accepted into the leadership program during sophomore year. The curriculum isdesigned to follow an intentional sequence of experiences that meet students’ developmentalreadiness and needs over the three years in the program. In each year, the student cohorts exploreone of three themes of the program (leading oneself, leading with others, or leading technologyand innovation) through a combination of three formal leadership courses, a variety ofexperiential learning opportunities, and the completion of a capstone project. Upon completionof the program, students will have a “Concentration in Engineering Leadership” noted on theirtranscript.Formal coursework is designed specifically for undergraduate engineering students. The coursesexplore topics including: self-awareness and emotional intelligence, leadership styles andtheories, servant leadership, team dynamics, motivating and guiding others, diversity in theworkplace (cultural, gender, etc.), communication, conflict management, ethical leadership,leading change, leading technology and innovation, market analysis, product development,entrepreneurship, and strategic and financial planning.A variety of assessment methods were employed in the first year. A pre- and post-test leadershipinventory was administered to students to during the first course. Results of this qualitativeassessment were analyzed using a rubric developed to measure growth in perceptions andattitudes. In addition, students wrote reflection papers about practical leadership experiencesduring their industry internships, using the guiding principles and themes of the program toillustrate what they learned. Students also synthesized their observations of industry leaders aftershadowing each of two C-Level leaders.Early results from assessments conducted after the first year in the program indicate students aredeveloping significant self-awareness, building life-long skills and habits that will serve themwell as they assume greater leadership responsibility. Early results also indicate the necessity ofcreating challenging experiences for students to critically examine their personal leadershipcapacity, skills, values, and awareness in order to foster growth and development. Observing andreflecting on others’ leadership practice is also a valuable process for building awareness ofone’s own leadership capacity and efficacy.

Trevey, K. A., & Gorman, A. L., & Ropella, K. M. (2015, June), Implementation of an Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum to Prepare 21st Century Leaders Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24243

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