June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
October 19, 2019
Educational Research and Methods
Abundant evidence demonstrates that students who can engage in realistic industry-relevant projects throughout their majors achieve greater success in terms of time to graduation, job placement, and advancing to higher positions once hired. This is particularly true of first generation and underserved minority students. This is due in part to these students not having access to such experiences on their own outside their academic programs At the University of California Merced the authors have been developing a Professional Development Track within the School of Engineering by combining Engineering Service Learning and Capstone Design courses into a cohesive and cumulative trajectory with uniform goals, practices, metrics, and management strategies. Throughout the Professional Development Track, students work on real-life engineering problems presented by industry and non-profit partners under the supervision of faculty. This unified approach allows students to collaborate with recurring partners on projects of increasing complexity, work on the same large project in different capacities as their experience and skills grow, and explore different areas of the engineering profession in a systematic approach. While on this track, students receive mentorship from faculty and are invited to participate in off-campus professional development events such as conferences and networking summits. Additionally, students learn from each other by collaborating with their peers who are at different points on their career pathway. The Professional Development Track seeks to ensure students are adequately prepared for the workforce upon graduation. By the time students begin the job application process during their senior year, they will already have experience with multiple engineering projects, enhanced technical communication and presentation skills, CV and cover letter writing, and interview and presentation techniques. Students will also have led professional groups, attended conferences, and engaged different audiences. They will have worked on at least one engineering project from beginning to end and will have contributed to multiple projects over time. These landmarks are essential to professional success and constitute some of the most important requirements to quickly and successfully join the workforce. The continuous mentorship, guidance, and experience created by the Professional Development Track allows faculty to work with specific students throughout their academic path, thereby increasing retention and graduation rates. The Professional Development Track also allows industry partners to easily interact with students and faculty, providing training and support to different groups simultaneously and helping prepare students for workforce participation.
Gutierrez, A., & Butler, C. A., & Ghassemi, A. (2019, June), Work in Progress: The Professional Development Track: A Cooperative Experiential Learning Approach to Academic Success for Underserved Engineering Students Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33655
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