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Transforming Liberal Arts Graduates to Advanced Manufacturing Careers: The First Cohort

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Two-Year Engineering and Engineering Technology Programs

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

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Paper Authors


Ibrahim F. Zeid Northeastern University

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Ibrahim Zaid is a professor of mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing engineering at Northeastern University. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Akron. Zeid has an international background. He received his B.S. (with highest honor) and M.S. from Cairo University in Egypt. He has received various honors and awards both in Egypt and the United States. He is the recipient of both the Northeastern Excellence in Teaching Award and the SAE Ralph R. Teetor National Educational Award.

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Chitra N. Javdekar Massachusetts Bay Community College

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Dean, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Division

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Claire Duggan Northeastern University Orcid 16x16

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Claire Duggan has a B.S. in political science from the University of Massachusetts and a M.P.A. in public administration from Northeastern University. She was appointed 2003-present Director for Programs and Operations, the Center for STEM Northeastern University; 1989-2003 Associate Director, CESAME/The Center for the Enhancement of Science and Mathematics Education, Northeastern University, and K-12 Outreach Coordinator, CenSSIS/ALERT, Northeastern University; and 1981-1989 Associate Director for Finance and Administration, Center for Electromagnetics Research (CER), Northeastern University. Publications/Papers: Reenergizing and Reengaging Students Interest through CAPSULE; A Novel and Evolutionary Method on Educating Teachers to Promote STEM Careers Jessica Chin, Abe Zeid, Claire Duggan, Sagar Kamarthi (IEEE ISEC 2011); and “Implementing the Capstone Experience Concept for Teacher Professional Development” Jessica Chin, Abe Zeid, Claire Duggan, Sagar Kamarthi (ASEE 2011). Relevant Presentations:
“K-12 Partnerships” (Department of Homeland Security/Centers of Excellence Annual Meeting 2009); “Building and Sustaining K-12 Educational Partnerships” (NSF ERC 2007 - 2010 National Meetings); “Research Experience for Teachers: Integrating Research Skills into the classroom” (UNH 2nd Annual Nanotechnology Conference for Teachers April 2006); and “Educational Outreach Programs” (2005 MA STEM Summit). She was Co-principal Investigator/Program Director, Research Experience for Teachers (RET), development and implementation of the Research Experience for Teachers site at Northeastern University; Executive Director/Founder, Young Scholars Program, development and implementation of the Young Scholars Program, a summer research program for high school students; Co-executive Director, Exxon Mobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp, development and implementation of a residential camp for middle school students; Liaison, StepUP Imitative, coordinate Northeastern University’s involvement with the StepUP initiative, a partnership effort between five universities and eleven Boston Public Schools; Project Director, IMPACT New England: A Regional Curriculum Implementation Effort, coordinated program development and implementation; Seminar Leader, Northeastern University School of Education, facilitated a group of students participating in the Introduction to Education course; Project Support Liaison, Teacher Innovation program, provided support to teachers/schools in the development and implementation of Teacher Innovation Programs (TIP), provided technical assistance to teachers through the proposal process, conducted proposal-writing workshops; Co-facilitator (2004), Boston East Pipeline Network; and Alumni, Lead Boston 2004 (The National Conference for Community and Justice). She won the 2006 Northeastern University Aspiration Award, and was recognized at the 2003 Northeastern University Reception honoring Principal Investigators that obtained funding in excess of $1 million over a five-year period.

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Marina Bograd

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It has been long recognized that liberal arts (BA) graduates receive excellent education and are well rounded graduates. They possess excellent communication skills, are adaptable and innovative. Multiple employer surveys and educational standards stress the importance of liberal arts education as part of preparing technical careers students such as engineers and computer scientists. However, it is also well recognized that BA graduates have a lesser of a chance of good employment than their counterparts in technical careers. Their chances of employment in economic downturns is even less. Many of these graduates are either un- or under-employed during recession times. Their pay scale is always less.

The lack of career opportunities and less pay for BA graduates pose problems for them as well as their society. These graduates cannot claim financial independence after graduation from their parents nor can they pay back their student loans. Similarly, they cannot participate in the economic growth due to lack of purchasing power.

We have the exact opposite problem in technical fields such as engineering. There is a lack of graduates to fill the open positions. That is a well-known problem for STEM fields where the STEM workforce has shortages that cannot be filled by graduating engineers alone. One known area where labor shortage has been documented is advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing is making a comeback to the US after decades of defecting offshore to overseas countries. Advanced manufacturing positions in particular go unfilled due to lack of skilled workers although the pay scale is high.

This paper presents an innovative approach to solving these two problems: lack of employment for BA graduates and lack of STEM graduates to fill advanced manufacturing positions. The approach is centered around the retraining of BA graduates to transform their careers to advanced manufacturing to fill these positions and prosper economically and gain their financial freedom. The central research question is how to accomplish this vision? The paper discusses a project currently funded by NSF that aims to answer this research question. A synthesis of the problem shows the following elements that must be put together: 1. Target positions for BA graduates: what kind of positions in advanced manufacturing can BA graduates handle? 2. Advanced manufacturing curriculum for BA graduates: what kind of curriculum can these graduates handle? The issue here is we attempt to teach technical subject to non-technical majors. How long should the curriculum be? 3. Avoid additional student loans: how can BA graduates transform their careers without additional student loan debt? 4. Reaching the intended students: where can we find these BA graduates and how can we reach them and convince them to buy into our vision?

The paper authors have spent over a year since the NSF grant was awarded researching and answering these questions. We have successfully identified the suitable advanced manufacturing positions to BA graduates, developed the curriculum accordingly, found the best source to reach our target audience, and recruited industry internships. As a result, our first cohort has 10 students and is now enrolled and taking course and participating in internships. This is the first cohort of three that takes place over three years.

This paper presents the elements of the program: targeted advanced manufacturing positions, design and delivery of transforming curriculum and program, BA graduates recruitment, companies recruitment, program logistics, student advising, internship opportunities, and lessons learned. The contribution of this paper is many-fold. First, we share the challenges we encountered and how we changed them to successes. Second, we show how this concept can be replicated at the national level to other parts of the country (our programs targets BA graduates in the Greater Boston area). Third, we report on the local industry needs and how they participate. Finally, we offer lesson learned.

Zeid, I. F., & Javdekar, C. N., & Duggan, C., & Bograd, M. (2016, June), Transforming Liberal Arts Graduates to Advanced Manufacturing Careers: The First Cohort Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27077

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