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Lessons Learned: Teaching Engineering Leadership in an Undergraduate Class Using Case Studies

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Leadership Development Constituent Committee Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.863.1 - 24.863.8



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Paper Authors

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Benjamin Ahn Purdue University, West Lafayette


Monica Farmer Cox Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Monica F. Cox, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education and is the Inaugural Director of the College of Engineering’s Leadership Minor at Purdue University. She also serves as the Executive Director of the International Institute for Engineering Education Assessment (i2e2a). She obtained a B.S. in mathematics from Spelman College, a M.S. in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama, and a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Her teaching interests relate to the professional development of graduate engineering students and to leadership, policy, and change in STEM education. Primary research projects explore the preparation of graduate students for diverse careers and the development of reliable and valid engineering education assessment tools. She is a NSF Faculty Early Career (CAREER) and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipient.

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Amadin Osagiede Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Amadin Osagiede is an MBA candidate in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University. He obtained a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of New Hampshire and a M.S., also in civil engineering, from Purdue University. Amadin is a graduate research assistant for Engineering Leadership @ Purdue, Purdue's engineering leadership development program. He is originally from Edo State, Nigeria and locally from Londonderry, New Hampshire.

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Lessons Learned: Teaching Engineering Leadership in an Undergraduate Class using Case StudiesLeadership is an important skill that employers look for when hiring engineeringundergraduates1-4. Although there has been progress on developing engineering undergraduates’leadership skills during their college years, faculty members have encountered many challenges5.One of the challenges includes ways to incorporate leadership development into engineeringcourses. This paper, therefore, describes a leadership course which used case studies to developengineering students’ leadership skills.The course described is one of the core classes that engineering undergraduates are required totake to earn a minor in Engineering Leadership through the College of Engineering at a largerMidwestern university. As one of the course activities, the instructor asked students to solve asample case through applying what they learned from previous weeks’ classes. Upon discussingand debriefing students’ solutions, the instructor had students develop their own cases based ontheir own past leadership experiences. Students were asked to include questions as well aspotential solutions for their cases. Sample questions of interest included: “What would you havedone if you were a leader on this team?”, or “What attributes would you show as a leader tosuccessfully navigate the situation?” The potential solutions were required to allow students toreflect upon the types of leadership attributes that would be important for a leader and theleadership skills that the leader would (or should) exhibit in the given case context. Oncestudents developed their cases, they were asked to share their cases with their peers and solveeach other’s cases. They were asked to discuss and/or debate the solutions that they each haddeveloped.This activity had a number of advantages in developing students’ leadership abilities. First, eachstudent shared his/her own case and a potential solution with colleagues in the course. By doingso, the student whose case was being discussed was able to learn of other leadership skills toapply in his/her case setting. Second, many of the cases that students developed were alignedwith what many of their colleagues in the course experienced but in different settings (e.g.,industry settings over academia) or with different stakeholders (e.g., customers over professors).Therefore, not only were many students in the classroom engaged in the conversation, butstudents and the instructor were able to discuss a wide variety of solutions and theirtransferability across different settings.The paper will further discuss the advantages and lessons learned about developing students’leadership skills though cases. The paper will include samples of students’ original cases andclassroom discussions on how students and the instructor were able to expand upon the originalcase solutions. The researchers believe this paper will inform current and future faculty memberswho are responsible for teaching leadership courses on ways to develop students’ leadershipskills though case studies.Bibliography1. McMasters, J. H., & Lang, J. D. (1995). Enhancing engineering and manufacturing education: Industry needs, industry roles, Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Anaheim, CA, 1995.2. McMasters, J. H., & Matsch, L. A. (1996). Desired attributes of an engineering graduate – An industry perspective, Proceedings of the 19th AIAA Advanced Measurement and Ground Testing Technology Conference, New Orleans, LA, 1996.3. Wisler, D. C. (2003). What you don’t necessarily learn in school, Mechanical Engineering Magazine Online, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 2003.4. Nair, C. S., Patil, A., & Mertova, P. (2009). Re-Engineering Graduate Skills – A Case Study, European Journal of Engineering Education, 34(2), 131-139.5. Cox, M. F., Cekic, O., & Adams, S. G. (2010). Developing leadership skills of undergraduate engineering students: Perspectives from engineering faculty. Journal of STEM Education: Innovations and Research, 11(3-4), 25-36.

Ahn, B., & Cox, M. F., & Osagiede, A. (2014, June), Lessons Learned: Teaching Engineering Leadership in an Undergraduate Class Using Case Studies Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20754

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