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Preparing Students For A Successful Transition From Academia: An Industry Perspective

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Preparing and Retaining Engineering Students

Tagged Division

Cooperative & Experiential Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.977.1 - 14.977.7



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Paper Authors


La Tondra Murray Duke University

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La Tondra Murray is the Associate Director of Professional Masters Programs in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She received a B.S. in Computer Science from Spelman College and a B.EE. in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She also holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Preparing Students for a Successful Transition from Academia: An Industry Perspective


Universities have traditionally partnered with industry to identify emerging areas for research, emphasize key technology topics within curricula, and provide students with practical cooperative learning experiences. College students are typically presented with opportunities to cultivate their communication, problem solving, and teamwork skills as a standard part of their applied science, computing, engineering, or technology programs. In today’s global economy, however, new employees must possess a broadly scoped professional repertoire that will differentiate them within an international talent pool. Companies are ideally looking for graduates who can make immediate contributions.

This paper will detail the types of skills and experiences that can best prepare engineering graduates for technical careers as identified through interviews with fifteen personnel managers from international technology companies. A taxonomy of behaviors to facilitate the move from academia to industry is subsequently described, and the activities that can support engineering students in their transition are discussed.


The results-oriented culture of industry requires graduates to consistently demonstrate their value through the resolution of issues in support of business needs as well as client requirements. If new employees begin their careers with a fundamental understanding of the corporate landscape and the critical behaviors that enable achievement, they can focus on making a positive impact while simultaneously embracing the core values of an organization. Engineers must clearly possess the abilities to think critically, deliver creative solutions, and collaborate effectively. Technical employees will likewise be expected to drive innovation across multicultural environments and leverage international experience for the benefit of clients around the world1,2. As such, students must be capable of applying some of the more informal operational ideas that they encounter in the classroom to the world of work. Campus resources can certainly provide graduates with important information as they prepare to interview for jobs and review employment offers, but there are other key competencies that can position new employees for success in industry.

Industry practitioners can provide unique perspectives about the types of experiences that foster a successful transition to the workforce. Personnel managers, in particular, can identify the characteristics that enable newly hired employees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields to thrive in the workplace. A series of interviews were conducted with fifteen personnel managers from international technology companies to assess the types of skills and experiences that can best prepare engineering graduates for technical careers. The interview candidates represented a broad cross section of technology domains (Information Technology and Consulting, Energy Management, Consumer Product Development), and all had experience with hiring and managing employees with 5 years of service or less.

Murray, L. T. (2009, June), Preparing Students For A Successful Transition From Academia: An Industry Perspective Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5195

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