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Ten Years Of Experience With A Professional Development Course Sequence For Engineers — Lessons Learned

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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

Capstone Design & Project Courses

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1383.1 - 12.1383.9



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Paper Authors

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Richard Smith Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Tracy N Schierenbeck Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Linda McCloskey Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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

Ten Years of Experience with a Professional Development Course Sequence for Engineers—Lessons Learned


Over the past decade, the School of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a unique educational component in Professional Development and Leadership for all Engineering undergraduates. Taught by the professional staff at the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development, the two 1-credit experiences (Professional Development I—PD-1 and Professional Development III—PD-3, respectively) have become an indispensable part of the engineering educational experience of our students. A third part of this experience (Professional Development II—PD-2) is taught independently by faculty from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Development began in the mid 1990s, and starting with the Class of 2001, these courses have been taken by all engineering students. The present paper describes our experiences in developing this experience and incorporating it into the curriculum, the assessment process that has been used to redesign the curricular content on a continuous basis, and some of the lessons that have been learned along the way.


During the mid-1980s, there arose an increased concern with the marketability of engineering graduates. In concert with a very competitive job market, industry recruiters began to seek graduates who were not only technically capable, but who were also proficient in “people skills” and “communication skills.” At the same time, engineering programs began to expand and enhance design education experiences, including significant opportunities for team-based activities. Success in these depended strongly on productive interpersonal relationships among team members as well as clear understanding of customer needs and communication. Other factors that have influenced the need for leadership in the last decade include the evolution of the global workforce, the influence of information technology on the interaction among virtual teams, and the recognition that understanding of ethical implications of engineering is paramount to long-term professional development.

The idea to formalize activities related to student leadership at Rensselaer actually was initiated by the Rensselaer Union, which is the self-supporting and self-governing student organization that controls, finances, and organizes student activities on the campus. In 1988, the Executive Board of the Union proposed to the Vice President for Student Affairs that Rensselaer form a Center for Student Leadership Development on the campus. Early activities focused on leadership training for student clubs and organizations, with specifically designed instructional modules for various groups. The Center grew rapidly with an increasing demand for on-campus workshops and conferences. These included out of classroom programs, “Slice of Leadership” presentations and panels, a Professional Leadership Program for juniors, and a Professional Leadership Series for engineering and science graduate students. In 1992, the Center received a bequest toward a future endowment and was renamed the Mary Jane and Hugh Archer ’37

Smith, R., & Schierenbeck, T. N., & McCloskey, L. (2007, June), Ten Years Of Experience With A Professional Development Course Sequence For Engineers — Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2153

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