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The Things You Need but Weren’t Taught – an Engineering Professional Practice Course

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2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference


Corvallis, Oregon

Publication Date

March 20, 2019

Start Date

March 20, 2019

End Date

March 22, 2019



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Paper Authors


Melinda Holtzman Portland State University

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Melinda Holtzman received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno. She is a Senior Instructor in the ECE department at PSU.

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This is submitted for an abstract-reviewed presentation only, no full paper.

Engineering managers have long stressed both the importance of, and new employee shortcomings in, “soft skills” such as communications and teamwork. To address this concern, we introduced a new senior-level course, ECE 424 Engineering Professional Practice, in Fall 2017. This course covers a variety of topics to help prepare graduates for careers in electrical and computer engineering, such as written and oral communications, ethical reasoning and considerations, strategies for job acquisition, career planning, intellectual property matters, approaches to lifelong learning, and the relationship of engineering to global and societal issues. Some of these topics had previously been discussed in our capstone course, but creating a separate course has increased the time and attention given to these important areas.

The course is currently being taught for the third time. In each class, surveys were given at the beginning and end of the term asking students to rate what they believe is the importance of various soft skills, and their confidence in their abilities in these areas. We found that by the end of the term the gap decreased between students’ appreciation of the importance of soft skills and their confidence in their abilities in almost every area.

In our presentation we will provide a more detailed description of the class and discuss the results of the pre- and post-surveys as well as other student feedback.

Holtzman, M. (2019, March), The Things You Need but Weren’t Taught – an Engineering Professional Practice Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE PNW Section Conference, Corvallis, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--31898

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