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The Management Tree of Life – An Aid for Undergraduate Engineers to Structure Management Thinking

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering Management Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1557.1 - 26.1557.10



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Paper Authors


William J. Schell IV P.E. Montana State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. William J. Schell holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering – Engineering Management from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and M.S. and B.S. degrees in Industrial and Management Engineering (IME) from Montana State University (MSU). He is an Assistant Professor in IME at MSU with research interests in engineering education and the role of leadership and culture in process improvement. Prior to his academic career, he spent 14 years in industry where he held leadership positions focused on process improvement and organizational development.

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Helping Undergraduate Engineers Structure Management Thinking with the Management Tree of LifeBoth members of industry and expert panels continue to call loudly for increasing the ability of engineeringundergraduates to effectively lead and work within diverse teams. Yet few engineering programs have aformal approach to providing students with the knowledge of management, human motivation, andorganizations essential for understanding how to lead effectively. Instead programs generally look toelectives and general education requirements to fill this gap.Recently, this stance has begun to change, with more and more engineering schools launching engineeringleadership development programs. However, these programs tend to either: 1) Focus on graduate studentswith professional experience or 2) Be elective programs that students must incorporate into their work inaddition to the core requirements needed to earn their engineering degree.This article examines a middle path. On this path, management material is incorporated into the corecurriculum of an Industrial Engineering program and offered to other engineers as a professional electivethat contributes to their degree requirements. For most students, the course is their first exposure to thetheoretical underpinnings of management and organizations. Since these materials are quite different thanthose of traditional engineering courses, students often either: 1) View the material as ‘fluff’ that is notimportant to their ability to be effective engineers and / or 2) Have a great deal of difficulty absorbing thematerial simply due its foreign nature.To combat the second issue, a novel adaptation of the concept map approach was employed to assiststudents frame their new knowledge in an engineering context. The approach leveraged tools that arefamiliar to most engineers – tree diagrams. This familiar tool was deployed in a manner many have seenin other contexts – family trees. The article exams the formative assessment of student performance on thetrees and the impact of this approach on student performance on subsequent summative assessments. Thatperformance is compared with those of previous assignments. Since the tree assignment was used as a bonusfor an upcoming course exam, the study also provides a control group for comparisons.

Schell, W. J. (2015, June), The Management Tree of Life – An Aid for Undergraduate Engineers to Structure Management Thinking Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24894

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