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Leadership Development in Tight Times: Scaling up courses without watering them down

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development Division Technical Session

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.847.1 - 23.847.21



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Paper Authors


Chris Carlson-Dakes University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Dr. Carlson-Dakes is a faculty associate in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is on the faculty in the School of Business at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisc. He has industry experience as director of Organizational Development for an architectural engineering firm where he worked at an executive leadership level on individual and group leadership development. Dr. Carlson-Dakes’ formal training in technical disciplines, and his personal passion for bringing a balanced approach to life allow him to combine highly technical curriculum with social, political, environmental, and emotional issues into a blended pedagogy needed for developing leaders of the future. His combined experience in academia, industry, and international teaching and consulting bring a strong blend of diverse real world perspectives into the classroom. Dr. Carlson-Dakes has Mechanical Engineering degrees from Carnegie Mellon University and Penn State University, and a doctoral degree in Socio-Technical Systems Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Gregory W Harrington Dept of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Univ of Wisconsin - Madison

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Greg Harrington is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, where he has been since 1996. His research and teaching interests primarily involve drinking water treatment, distribution, and regulatory policy. He is currently the department's associate chair for the undergraduate program and the Suzanne & Richard Pieper Family Foundation Servant leader chair for the university's College of Engineering.

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  Leadership  development  in  tight  times:   Scaling  up  courses  without  watering  them  down    The  proposed  paper  addresses  a  serious  challenge  that  many  universities  face  –  particularly  large  public  universities:    How  can  we  meet  increasing  demands  for  undergraduate  leadership  development  during  a  time  of  dwindling  resources?    One  approach  to  be  presented  in  the  proposed  paper  lies  in  pursuing  innovative  approaches  to  engineering  education  and  leadership  development  through  rethinking  instructional  models  and  curricular  design.    The  paper  will  provide  a  developmental  framework,  preliminary  assessment  results,  lessons  learned,  and  guidelines  for  how  our  approach  can  be  adapted  at  other  institutions.        Our  educational  research  supports  the  recommendations  of  NAE  2020  that  student  learning  is  enhanced  by  smaller  class  sizes,  more  direct  contact  with  instructors,  and  active  engagement  in  real  world  projects.    Students  benefit  from  early  and  ongoing  engagement  in  development  opportunities  throughout  their  college  career  –  ideally  starting  the  first  day  they  arrive  on  campus  as  a  freshman.        Despite  this  knowledge,  we  struggle  to  find  a  feasible  path  to  meet  these  recommendations.    Our  alumni  and  industry  partners  consistently  tell  us  we  need  to  graduate  students  with  more  leadership  experience  –  yet  we  find  ourselves  at  a  confluence  of  conflicting  factors  that  make  it  difficult  to  respond  accordingly.    Administrators  embrace  the  need  to  update  and  expand  our  curriculum  to  remain  current  and  relevant,  yet  there  is  no  room  to  add  anything  in  an  already  tightly  packed  four-­‐year  degree  program.    So,  what  do  we  do?        The  paper  will  present  a  detailed  framework  for  how  a  freshman  Engineering  Leadership  course  grew  from  concept  to  successful  implementation  poised  for  continued  growth  in  future  years.    We  will  provide  rationale  for  the  course’s  instructional  model  and  pedagogical  foundation  that  serve  as  the  basis  for  the  development,  implementation,  and  evaluation  process.    The  resulting  student  work,  course  evaluations,  and  instructor  observations  from  the  first  two  offerings  of  the  course  provide  preliminary  results  that  show  we  met  the  primary  course  objectives  for  students  to  understand  and  demonstrate  their  knowledge  of:       1. The  leadership  role  that  engineering  professionals  can  play  in  service  to  a  breadth  of  social,   political,  environmental,  economic,  and  global  issues,     2. Their  personal  vision  for  professional  futures  and  the  spectrum  of  career  opportunities   available  to  fit  their  vision,     3. How  their  strengths,  leadership  potential,  and  development  needs  can  help  them  achieve   their  personal  vision,     4. How  to  comfortably  and  professionally  communicate  directly  with  peers,  practicing   engineers  and  adult  professionals,   5. Skills,  tools,  and  insights  to  advance  engineering  ideas  from  concept  to  action.    We  will  present  data  on  student  satisfaction  and  learning  gains  that  show  high  levels  of  student  engagement,  relevance  to  their  ongoing  development,  and  successful  implementation  of  group  service-­‐learning  projects.        The  paper  will  conclude  by  outlining  an  approach  that  can  be  adapted  by  other  institutions.    Included  in  our  recommendations  will  be  considerations  for  the  types  of  institutional  support  and  partnerships  required  to  move  from  a  needs  assessment  toward  pilot  course  development,  all  the  way  through  to  implementation,  evaluation,  and  considerations  for  future  expansion  to  meet  increasing  needs.    Readers  will  learn  an  approach  that  enables  faculty  to  remain  true  to  the  pedagogical  benefits  of  a  small-­‐class  feel  as  they  scale-­‐up  a  class  structure  to  accommodate  increasing  enrollments  without  breaking  their  budget.  

Carlson-Dakes, C., & Harrington, G. W. (2013, June), Leadership Development in Tight Times: Scaling up courses without watering them down Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19861

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