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The Effects Of Instructors' Time In Industry On Students' Co Curricular Experiences

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Professional Skills and the Workplace

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1223.1 - 13.1223.12



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Paper Authors


Betty Harper Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Betty Harper is a doctoral candidate in Higher Education and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State.

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Patrick Terenzini Pennsylvania State University

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Patrick T. Terenzini is a Distinguished Professor and Senior Scientist in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State.

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

The Effects of Instructors’ Time in Industry on Students’ Co-Curricular Experiences Abstract

Evidence indicates engineering graduates' skills are misaligned with workforce needs. Are the disjunctions due, in part, to the backgrounds of students' instructors? Using a nationally representative sample of 1,037 faculty and 3,338 students representing 142 programs on 39 campuses, findings indicate that graduates of programs with a higher proportion of faculty with industry experience report spending more time in non-required design activities and competitions than students in programs with more academically oriented faculty. The expectation that students in such programs would also report more time spent in internships and cooperative education experiences and that they would be more involved in student chapters of professional societies was not confirmed.


Engineering education plays a vital role in the preparation of America's workforce and its competitiveness in the global economy. All may not be well, however, as disjunctions emerge between workforce needs and recent graduates' skills, particularly in the professions. During the 1990s, engineering programs came under fire for failing to adequately prepare graduates to face the challenges of engineering practice. Critics found newly minted engineers highly skilled in mathematical and scientific foundations but ill-prepared to solve unstructured problems, communicate effectively, or work in groups – all essential skills in the modern engineering workplace.

Finkelstein, Seal, and Schuster1 claim that "the story of American higher education experience . . . can be told in substantial part by recounting just who made up the faculty over time" (p. xi), that the graduates a program produces are a function of the kinds of faculty members who teach them. In engineering, as well as in other professional disciplines, these faculty members have become increasingly academic in their backgrounds over the past century and increasingly removed from the industries they serve. Jencks and Riesman2 first noted the tendency of professional schools to drift from their applied, action research roots toward more scholarly activities, and engineering education is a case-in-point. The post-WWII and Sputnik eras saw a massive influx of federal support for research in higher education, increased hiring of research-oriented faculty members, and curriculum revisions that reflected faculty members' interests. By 2000, engineering education looked more like that in a traditional science than in a profession.3 Government, business, and professional societies pressed for engineering education reforms in order to sustain America's technological and economic leadership.

Consistent with Finkelstein et al.,1 one explanation for the failure of engineering programs to provide graduates with important professional skills is that most engineering students are taught by faculty with little or no industry experience.4 Faculty removed from advances in industrial practices, the argument goes, are likely to be slow in identifying the shifting needs of industry and in adjusting the curriculum and their teaching practices accordingly. Faculty members with industry experience are presumably more attuned to the

Harper, B., & Terenzini, P. (2008, June), The Effects Of Instructors' Time In Industry On Students' Co Curricular Experiences Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3978

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