June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Cooperative & Experiential Education
26.1368.1 - 26.1368.10
Service-Motivated Students’ Transitions To IndustryWith a growing emphasis on the need to develop more holistic engineers, many engineeringeducators are turning to service-based educational pedagogies to help students gain broaderperspectives of their roles as engineers in society. The explosive growth of Engineers WithoutBorders (EWB) and the rise of programs such as Purdue’s Engineering Project in CommunityService (EPICS) and Michigan Tech’s D80 program exemplify how both students andinstitutions highly value such activities. Research into the effects of these activities has shownthat students gain a greater understanding of their civic and social responsibility, awareness ofthe world, and increased academic, personal and professional advancement. Concurrently,corporate social responsibility (CSR) continues to be adopted broadly as a major step forward incompanies’ interaction with and effect on the environments in which they operate. Thereremains, however, significant uncertainty about what happens when these students leave schooland enter the engineering profession, and to what degree they are able and willing to participatein engineering service and personally contribute to a firm’s CSR efforts.A description of engineering service opportunities and value in the workplace will be presentedthrough exploratory interview data with 12 engineering company employees who are engaged insome way with engineering service supported to varying degrees by their companies. Theengineering firms range from environmental engineering consulting to large construction toaerospace industry. Interviews lasted thirty to sixty minutes using a semi-structuredapproach. Related results from interviews with 15 alumni who were active in engineeringservice programs as students will also be presented, including examples from individuals wholeft engineering. Additionally, the ways in which engineering companies portray these activitiesthrough various social media were explored and broadly compared to the responses of theemployees as to the realities in their jobs.Engineering employees at these firms have a wide range of experiences in the ways and meansthrough which their service aspirations are supported. Some firms offer an extra week of paidtime off for engineering service-related travel while others employees only receive informalaccolades and invitations to give lunchtime presentations. Employees described the ways theywere able to present the value of engineering service activities to decision makers in their firms(high-level engineers to marketing managers) in order to be supported. The 12 employeeinterviews paint a complex though encouraging picture of the status of engineering service in theworkplace, though success does seem to depend very much on messaging and the prioritizationof stakeholders for engineering projects. Alumni from engineering service programs hadselected a variety of career paths, ranging from traditional engineering work with continuedparticipation in engineering service on a volunteer basis to complete immersion through workingat an NGO. Others had moved in directions away from engineering service, and still others hadleft engineering due in part to the perceived disconnect with societal benefits.This paper will give insight to the mysterious working world, and provide recommendations foreasing the education-industry transition for the growing number of qualified service-motivatedengineering graduates.
Rulifson, G., & Canney, N. E., & Bielefeldt, A. R. (2015, June), Service-Motivated Students’ Transitions To Industry Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24705
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