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Students' Selection of Topics for a Professional Development Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Biological & Agricultural Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Biological & Agricultural

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1134.1 - 24.1134.6



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Paper Authors


Ann D. Christy Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Ann Christy is an associate professor of Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering at the Ohio State University (OSU). She earned both her B.S. in agricultural engineering and M.S. in biomedical engineering at the Ohio State University, and her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Clemson University. She worked for a civil engineering consulting firm in New Jersey before entering academia and continues to collaborate with the engineering consulting industry. She has taught courses in bioenergy, biological engineering, capstone design, HVAC, thermodynamics, waste management, and professional development. Ann was the chair of her department’s academic affairs committee for ten years, overseeing their undergraduate programs in engineering, construction systems management, and agricultural systems management. She has won multiple teaching awards at the departmental, college, university, and national levels. She is experienced with undergraduate program assessment and accreditation, having served both the ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission and the American Council for Construction Education as a program accreditation evaluator. She leads an extension program called “Barn Again” about the rehabilitation of historic agricultural structures. Her research interests include energy, the environment, and engineering education. For one academic year, she served as interim associate dean for undergraduate education and student services in the College of Engineering. She was involved in OSU’s quarter-to-semester conversion effort at multiple levels over 3+ years: as point person and undergraduate studies chair for her department, as a member of the college-level committees in both the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and the College of Engineering, and as a Faculty Fellow in the university’s Office of Academic Affairs. She is a second-generation woman engineer; her mother worked as an industrial engineer in the aeronautical industry. Ann is a licensed professional engineer.

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Students' selection of topics for a professional development courseAn undergraduate professional development course, which is currently required withinthe xxxx University’s program for a Bachelor of Science in Food, Agricultural, andBiological Engineering, has the following goals: • Prepare students to enter the engineering profession by developing improved personal skills and confidence for interviewing and pursuing professional licensing • Introduce professional development business topics • Instill the need for life-long learning after graduation • Explore the ethical expectations within the engineering profession • Enable students to reflect upon and articulate what they have learned during their engineering education.The official course description of the course described in this paper is “Professionaldevelopment related to food, agricultural, and biological engineering; businesscommunication skills for professional advancement; engineering ethics; health andsafety; and the engineer’s responsibilities to society.” The objectives of this study are topresent the students' selections over time of additional professional development topics.These were made by class vote and have shown the changing interests and priorities ofstudents in biological and agricultural engineering over the span of a decade.The course is taught annually and is structured to explore several instructor-determinedtopics during the first half of the semester, followed by those topics selected by classconsensus for the second half of the course. The topics that are included in every offeringof the course (i.e., the instructor-determined topics) are the following: • Professional business communications: Resumes, cover letters, memos, letters, proposals, reports, emails, professional portfolios • Professional licensing and ABET • Planning for graduate school • Job interviews, follow-up letters and calls, and evaluating job offers • Engineering ethics • Occupational health and safety for engineersThe second half of the course highlights professional skills and business practice topicsrelevant to the engineering profession and to that particular group of students enrolled inthe course. The selection of those topics is made during the first and second classmeetings. The class is presented with up to 30 topics, many of which are industry-identified professional competencies. Although fewer than a quarter of these topics canbe covered in any given course offering, having a long list of candidates exposes thestudents to the breadth of potential topics available for study in class, and by extension,later in their professional careers. The students are also encouraged to add topics to thislist. Potential topics are discussed in class, and any student questions are addressed. They 1are then encouraged to vote for their top four choices using an online survey tool. Thefive most popular topics over time have been: (1.) Difficult conversations, (2.)Engineering and the law, (3.) Engineering contracts and legal documents, (4.)Negotiation skills, and (5.) Work-life balance. The paper will present the topic list fromwhich they chose in most recent offering of the course, along with the number of timeseach topic has been chosen over the past ten offerings of the course. Instructorreflections, recommendations, and conclusions will also be presented. 2

Christy, A. D. (2014, June), Students' Selection of Topics for a Professional Development Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23067

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