Asee peer logo

Learning to Talk the Talk – Preparing Students for Success during Internships through Communication Workshops

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Cooperative and Experiential Education Division Technical Session 3 - Co-op Recruitment and Factors Affecting Success

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Sarah A. Wilson University of Kentucky

visit author page

Sarah Wilson is a lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Kentucky. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Rowan University in New Jersey before attending graduate school for her PhD at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. Sarah conducted her thesis research on the production of the anti-cancer compound Paclitaxel (Taxol) through the use of plant cell cultures from the Taxus Yew Tree. Throughout her time at Rowan and UMass, she developed a passion for undergraduate education. This passion led her to pursue a career as a lecturer, where she could focus on training undergraduate chemical engineering students. She has been teaching at UK since 2015 and has taught Fluid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Computational Tools and the Unit Operations Laboratory. She is especially interested in teaching scientific communication and integration of process safety into the chemical engineering curriculum.

visit author page


Renee Kaufmann University of Kentucky

visit author page

University of Kentucky, College of Communication and Information, School of Information Science

visit author page

Download Paper |


This research paper is focused on the development of an intern communication workshop to provide students with communication skills that are often not covered in the engineering curriculum. Throughout the 2018-19 academic year, a survey was implemented to better understand the communication skills required of engineers on internships. Through this survey of over 160 engineering students, it was found that interns communicate most frequently with other engineers (i.e., in and out of discipline) and non-engineers with both technical and non-technical backgrounds. Further, the most common types of communication were informal conversations and discussions. In addition to determining the frequency of communication types, it was found that students learned more about these forms of communication during their internship than they did from their college curriculum. While this result highlighted a key benefit of completing an industrial internship, it also indicated a gap between the communication skills taught in the classroom and those required of a career in industry.

To begin to address this gap, a workshop was developed to teach students key communication skills that are required for success in industry. All students completing an internship during the Spring 2020 semester were invited to participate, but attendance was voluntary. Skills highlighted through the workshop include: audience analysis (how to correctly communicate with your audience and understand their motivation), professionalism, digital communication, and team communication and management. Due to low attendance and survey completion rates, the effect of the communication workshop on student competencies could not be determined. That being said, students overall rated the workshop and workshop components as valuable. Additionally, students were active in participating in workshop discussions and seemed engaged and excited about the workshop content. Prior to the start of their internships, student competency data (perceived skill level, confidence and nervousness) was collected. Perceived skill and confidence levels were similar for each communication type and communication audience, but nervousness did not follow these trends. To examine the effect of the internship experience on these competencies, post-internship data will be collected in the Summer of 2020. These data will help to further refine workshop content, as well as provide guidance to faculty about communication skills that should be more heavily addressed in the classroom.

Wilson, S. A., & Kaufmann, R. (2020, June), Learning to Talk the Talk – Preparing Students for Success during Internships through Communication Workshops Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34904

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015