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Incorporating Professional Experience into Teaching

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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

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Shannon L. Isovitsch Parks P.E. University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Dr. Shannon Parks is a registered Professional Engineer with 20 years of broad-based experience in the water resources and environmental engineering fields. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Science and doctoral degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University. She is currently teaching water resources and environmental engineering at University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Prior to joining University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Dr. Parks’ worked for over seven years at the Alcoa Technical Center focusing on development and commercialization of sustainable wastewater treatment and solid waste reuse technologies. She also served as a member of the Alcoa Foundation Board of Directors, providing environmental expertise to support the Foundation’s focus areas of Environment, Empowerment, and Education, as well as her experience with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for women. Prior to joining Alcoa in 2008, Dr. Parks worked for approximately seven years as a consultant to government agencies, municipalities, and industrial clients performing water resources engineering design and permitting. In addition to her corporate experience, Dr. Parks served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, supporting a local Non-Governmental Organization on water sanitation projects.

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Laura J. Dietz University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown

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Laura J. Dietz, Ph.D., trained as clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, completed a clinical internship at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL, and pursued postdoctoral training in clinical research at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Dr. Dietz’s research interests focus on early psychosocial interventions for mood disorders in youths and adapting developmentally appropriate interventions for depressed children and their families. She has been studying the effects of stress on health risk behavior in undergraduates, with a particularly focus on first-generation college students.

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Incorporating professional experience into teaching By Shannon L. Isovitsch Parks, PE, PhD, and Laura J. Dietz, PhD

Most graduating engineers have the technical skills to succeed and find work. Good communication skills set new graduates apart at career fairs as how they present themselves gives potential employers an idea how the engineer will work in teams, communicate with clients, and interact with regulators. In addition, good networking and presentation skills will most likely determine how quickly one advances in an engineering career, no matter their degree of technical skills. This is particularly true, as engineers typically advance through gaining managerial positions that require them to communicate effectively and lead teams of engineers to complete various projects. Therefore, integrating good communication skills into engineering curriculum is vital for the success of our students.

This paper will outline how effective communication skills were integrated into different teaching methods employed in a senior level undergraduate water/wastewater engineering course. Modifications to the class will be discussed in light of the goals of the course: to help students gain extensive communication practice, including writing, presenting, interviewing and networking with professionals, along with traditional engineering design skills. Traditional lectures were supplemented with a combination of on-site industry tours, guest lecturers, and a team design project from an actual consulting firm project. Students worked collaboratively in teams on homework, the design project, and even on exams. Benefits to students both expected and unexpected, such as a free 1-year professional society membership offered to each student in the class by one industry contact, will be discussed, as well as challenges and learnings. Student, industry professional, and recruiter measures on the importance they place on learning practical communication skills will be collected, analyzed, and presented.

Parks, S. L. I., & Dietz, L. J. (2017, June), Incorporating Professional Experience into Teaching Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28512

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