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Leadership Education for Engineers: Engineering Schools Interest and Practice

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Government Policy, Manufacturing Education, and Certification

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Page Count


Page Numbers

25.879.1 - 25.879.13



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Paper Authors


Ronald J. Bennett F.ASEE, F.ABET P.E. Univeristy of Saint Thomas

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Ronald J. Bennett holds the Honeywell Chair in Global Technology Management in the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, after having served as the Founding Dean. He holds a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering and an M.B.A. With a background of more than 20 years in industry, Bennett teaches and publishes on diverse topics including materials engineering, technical innovation, technology transfer, manufacturing, leadership, and engineering education. He is an EAC of ABET Commissioner for SME and leads the SME Center for Education.

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Elaine R. Millam

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1 LEADERSHIP EDUCATION FOR ENGINEERS: ENGINEERING SCHOOLS INTEREST AND PRACTICEABSTRACTLeadership has long been a topic in business and education, but until recently has not been afocus in science and engineering. Based on our experience teaching leadership to graduateengineering students, we were interested in knowing whether others were teaching leadership intheir programs. We needed information on other engineering programs that was not available inthe literature, which led to developing a survey to gather this data. Our motivation for thisresearch was experience the authors have had in industry and academia with sub-optimizedpotential of engineers to fully exercise their knowledge and skill in the workplace.The survey was administered electronically. Our experience with surveys over the past decadehas shown we get a higher response rate with electronic, rather than paper, surveys. Incollaboration with ASEE and the Engineering Deans Council, in 2009-2010 we conducted asurvey sent to deans of engineering programs in the United States, asking whether they offeredleadership education in their programs, requesting responses to a series of questions includingwhether they believed leadership education was important for engineers. The objective of thesurvey was to determine the extent to which engineering programs perceived the need to providegraduates with an understanding of leadership, how they were addressing this need, and whatthey saw as barriers to incorporating leadership education in their curricula.Approximately 14% of engineering schools responded to the survey. The results showed that100% of respondents believe leadership education is important for engineers; yet only 46%include this in undergraduate programs and just 21% in the graduate curriculum. Whilebelieving strongly in the importance of this topic, the major reason that more do not includeleadership is that it is difficult to fit into the curriculum. Some have found creative ways tointegrate components of leadership across several courses, often linking topics with EAC ofABET criterion. With the rapid expansion of knowledge in all fields of engineering, and theconstraints on credit hours, leadership often takes a back seat. They are asking how this problemcan be solved.The survey of engineering deans reinforces the need for leadership education. Despite a packedcurriculum, engineering schools need to find ways to integrate leadership educationalcomponents into their curriculum. One way that we know works is by introducing a series ofcourses that develop those skills.This paper presents the motivation for this research, the process used to gather the data, andassessment and evaluation of the responses. Examples of current practice of providingleadership education to engineers are provided, and suggested alternatives are presented.O:\ASEE\ASEEconf2012\ASEE2012Abstract[LeadershipFinalOCT11].doc

Bennett, R. J., & Millam, E. R. (2012, June), Leadership Education for Engineers: Engineering Schools Interest and Practice Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21636

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