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Leadership for Engineers: A Course for Developing Professional and Business Skills for Engineers

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Fostering Business and Professional Skills in the Engineering Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Decker B. Hains Western Michigan University

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Dr. Decker B. Hains is a Master Faculty Specialist in the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering at Western Michigan University. He is a retired US Army Officer serving 22 years on active duty with the US Army Corps of Engineers and taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA). He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from USMA in 1994, Master of Science degrees from the University of Alaska Anchorage in Arctic Engineering in 1998 and Missouri University Science & Technology in Civil Engineering in 1999, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University in 2004. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Michigan.

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Bret J. Wagner Western Michigan University

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Employers consistently cite leadership and professional skills as some of the most desirable abilities for engineering graduates. Unfortunately, these skills are rarely explicitly taught to engineers in the classroom and graduates are left to develop them on their own. Moreover, knowledge of fundamental business functions is increasingly important for civil engineers.

To address these needs, the authors developed a course, Leadership for Engineers, and used an interactive and highly engaging business simulation, ScrimmageSim, to create an active learning environment where students are placed in leadership positions and are required to develop basic business operating plans; execute plans; and reflect on their successes, failures and missed opportunities. The authors piloted the course during summer 2017 with students majoring in both engineering and business.

This paper addresses the development, execution and assessment of this course. The development of the course included sequencing the specific seminars on leadership and business topics and the five business simulation scenarios. Each of the business simulation scenarios included team preparation, execution, and an after-action review to capture lessons learned. During the execution of the simulations, four-member student teams, with one member designated as the leader, operated a simulated brewery, making decisions on what to produce, what prices to set, and other critical decisions. The ScrimmageSim software provided real-time reports on the status of the simulated company so the impacts of their business decisions were readily apparent. Each successive simulation featured additional options requiring more complicated business decisions.

All team and students received feedback on their performance for each of the simulations. Teams presented their business plans and briefed on the lessons learned. The authors conducted an extensive end-of-course survey to assess the quality of the course and the contribution of the course to student learning about leadership and business and professional skills. The paper will detail the development and execution of the course as well as an assessment of how well the course met the stated objectives.

Hains, D. B., & Wagner, B. J. (2018, June), Leadership for Engineers: A Course for Developing Professional and Business Skills for Engineers Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30749

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