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Service Learning And Integrated, Collaborative Project Management

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

EMD Curriculum Design

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1273.1 - 12.1273.10



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Paper Authors


Gene Dixon East Carolina University

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Gene Dixon is an Assistant Professor and Director of ECU Engineering, Inc. at East Carolina University. His research interests include engineering management themes including leadership, followership, team work, organizational culture and trust. Before coming to ECU, he worked in
various positions in industry for Chicago Bridge and Iron, E. I. DuPont, Westinghouse Electric, CBS, Viacom and the Washington Group. Dr. Dixon received a BS in Material Engineering from Auburn University, an MBA from Nova Southeastern University and PhD in Industrial and System Engineering and Engineering Management from The University of Alabama Huntsville.

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

Service-Learning and Integrated, Collaborative Project Management Abstract

This paper describes the introduction of service-learning into an undergraduate course on project management. At ECU, engineering courses are taught in an integrated and collaborative education environment. The core curriculum requires junior level students to complete a course in project management as part of the program’s commitment to industry to supply immediately productive, contributing new employees. The project management course is traditionally structured around system needs and analysis identification, functional requirements analysis, project timelines, network analysis, and project progress metrics. Introduction of service- learning projects was embraced as a pragmatic approach to encourage students to commit to service to the community and to provide a “fast-track” application of the project management course concepts. Service-learning emphasizes problem solving, experiential education and civic responsibility while simultaneously providing opportunities to develop human relations. The paper describes approaches taken to, and early successes of, introducing service-learning projects into this project management course to students without project management and service learning experience, and into an engineering program in its development stage.


With growing pressures within the university setting to feature the engaged approach of working with adjacent communities, emphasis on town-gown collaboration is being touted as a retention enabler1. One technique for melding these interests is the extension of case study type problem based learning2. In this approach students are encouraged to develop a team approach to problem resolution in order to promote an appreciation for diversity, communication skills and self-esteem through collaborative problem solving. This approach builds on traditional basics such as research related reading, reflective report oriented writing as well as science, mathematics and calculus.

Service-learning is community centric problem based learning where students are addressing real community issues and problems. Real problems mean real customers, clients or beneficiaries as well as real risks and real requirements and therefore carry the weight of real engineering experience. This form of service-learning is similar to university/industry partnerships3 for student projects with the exception that service is provided to a community organization that is government or non-profit thereby providing the students with a “gift of giving” that is to often lost in more quantitatively oriented environments. The challenge is to move the service-learning experience from collaboration-where group accountability is paramount-to cooperation-where individual accountability is carefully structured4, i.e., an experiential learning environment. The solution proposed here is the application of the tools of project management5.

Learning project management skills is a trial and error process. Academic courses can teach all the tools that the PMBOK define and reference but to learn it, students have to use it. The challenge for undergraduates is to learn how to learn, to learn and to learn in a way that doesn’t cause harm. Providing that kind of opportunity for undergraduates requires hands on tools and

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Dixon, G. (2007, June), Service Learning And Integrated, Collaborative Project Management Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1948

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