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Mentoring Engineering Students: Realities, Challenges, and Rewards

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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

Introducing New Methodologies and the Incoming Students to Engineering Programs

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.897.1 - 23.897.13



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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili is an academician and a civil engineering consultant in Ames, Iowa. Has published in various fields including: geotechnical engineering, foundations, and pavement materials & design. He has been involved with contemporary engineering education issues, addressing a wide range of topics of interest and relevance to engineering institutions and practicing engineers, in the U.S. and abroad.

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Mentoring Engineering Students: Realities, Challenges, and Rewards AbstractMentoring is not a new concept. Many of us have benefited from a trusted mentor.Perhaps we called them a friend, family member, or an advisor, whose opinions andexperiences we trusted. They created an intangible bond with us through theirexperiences, opinions, and the time they took to give us advice and counsel. Asprofessional engineers, many of us have the same opportunity—by getting involved intwo aspects that are vitally important to the engineering profession. The first is to makean incredibly positive impact on the life of a young, aspiring professional or student. Thesecond is to help solidify the role of engineering in a fast paced, diverse landscape. Howbest to start? Begin by assessing what we have to offer as mentors. The main role of amentor is to stimulate students or young professionals to think in new and creative ways.One of the biggest values to bring to mentoring is a broad perspective—and how thatperspective can be of value to students.From author’s experiences, a key issue in “starting where they are” relates to our ownpreconceived notions about students and their abilities to evolve into the field ofengineering. It is all too easy to consider general educational trends that indicate a woefullack of most students’ preparation in math and science. The logical extension of suchthinking is: they don’t have what it takes to succeed in engineering. Let us not waste ourtime and resources. In light of this, do we simply give up? Or do we rally our resources tohelp students do better? There is only one real option - how do we meet students wherethey are in their educational preparation, and how do we help them develop their corecompetencies so they could one day become engineers?The proposed paper takes a practical look at the challenges and rewards of experiencedengineering educators becoming mentors for students or young practicing engineers. Theauthor recommends an approach to mentoring that is deep in self-evaluation, one thatconsiders the intellectual, social, and professional development needs of students andyoung professionals, and the need for taking little steps—one step at a time—that makesa big difference. Such an approach to mentoring will help encourage students,particularly underrepresented groups, to pursue careers in engineering.The relationship between the mentor and the student may last for many years afterstudent’s graduation. Often it is difficult to define, in a clear manner, what mentoring isand how a professor can become a good mentor. The proposed paper describes someattributes of mentoring and sketches out how a faculty member might become a goodmentor to students.

Akili, W. (2013, June), Mentoring Engineering Students: Realities, Challenges, and Rewards Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22282

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