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Push and Pull: Integrating Industry Across the Student Experience

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

CEED Technical Session I: WIP: Experiential Learning Potpourri

Tagged Division

Cooperative and Experiential Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Katherine McConnell University of Colorado, Boulder/Denver

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Katherine McConnell is a Senior Professional Development Advisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently a student at the University of Colorado Denver pursuing an EdD in Leadership for Educational Equity with a concentration in Professional Learning and Technology.

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Julie Elizabeth Steinbrenner University of Colorado, Boulder

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Julie Steinbrenner earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University in 2011. She is currently an Instructor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of Colorado Boulder, where she teaches Senior Design and thermo-fluids courses. She has also developed new curriculum and programming for student professional development and career exploration which have strengthened connections between students, alumni and industry partners. She serves as chair of External Relations for the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU Boulder. She has been the Wolenski/Roller Faculty Fellow since 2017.

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Daniel Knight University of Colorado, Boulder

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Daniel W. Knight is the Program Assessment and Research Associate at Design Center (DC) Colorado in CU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Louisiana State University, an M.S. degree in industrial/organizational psychology and a Ph.D. degree in education, both from the University of Tennessee. Dr. Knight’s research interests are in the areas of K-12, program evaluation and teamwork practices in engineering education. His current duties include assessment, team development, outreach and education research for DC Colorado's hands-on initiatives.

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This work-in-progress paper focuses on efforts related to the Student Experiential Education (SEE) Initiative in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. The SEE Initiative was founded in Spring 2018 and is currently in its first year of implementation. The initiative aims to more effectively integrate professional insights and industry-related connections throughout students’ experience in the department.

The SEE Initiative approaches the goal of increased industry/academia integration from two angles. The first approach focuses on finding opportunities to ​pull​ ​industry into education. This approach includes hosting alumni panels in core classes, using alumni/industry volunteers for required student informational interviews, planning networking events hosted on-campus, and integrating industry-focused modules and sample problems across the curriculum. These components were selected to bring industry/professional connections into the curriculum in places where students sometimes struggle to connect academic concepts to outside practice, especially early in their academic career and in foundational core courses.

The second approach of the SEE Initiative is to ​push​ students out into industry/professional environments. The primary goal of this component is to increase the percentage of the department’s students who complete an internship from the current rate of 44% for students graduating in AY 17-18. By bringing students into ongoing contact with industry professionals through the​ pull​ component of the initiative, the goal is to build a department culture where internships are viewed as a typical component of an undergraduate Mechanical Engineering program and an important step in a student’s professional development. To that end, the department has employed a new cohort of Student Apprentices to be peer mentors and role models -- providing advice and encouragement to students considering internships, and demonstrating the value of their own internship experiences.

Initial observations and data will be shared from the SEE Initiative’s first year of implementation, along with future directions and lessons learned that may be of value for those interested in implementing similar efforts at their institutions.

McConnell, K., & Steinbrenner, J. E., & Knight, D. (2019, June), Push and Pull: Integrating Industry Across the Student Experience Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33215

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