Magazine article ASEE Prism

Leadership Loud and Clear

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Leadership Loud and Clear

Article excerpt

MOST ENGINEERING schools have programs in place to help students improve their communications skills. Unfortunately, many of these programs require additional classes in an already packed curriculum and do not engage students until their senior year, when they are on the verge of graduation. The Center for Engineering Leadership at the University of Utah is unique in that it engages students in their freshman year. "We work with engineering faculty," Director April Kedrowicz says, "in students' core classes-[of which there is] one required course at every level, freshman through senior-and develop their writing, speaking, and team skills."

The "we" is a staff of twelve humanities graduate student "consultants" who help students with oral presentation, writing skills, and the dynamics of working as a team. "They do a lot of behind the scenes work," Kedrowicz says. This behind-the-scenes work includes meeting with teaching assistants and faculty members to better integrate communication skills instruction into the curriculum. They also lecture in the engineering classes on "presentation techniques, persuasion, and the dynamics of teamwork."

The center prepares students with communications and teamwork skills needed to lead, but also makes them aware of ethical issues. This is especially important in engineering, a field with the potential to seriously impact public safety. The center offers a general education elective in applied ethics that is taught by a philosophy professor and features professional engineers from companies such as Dupont, Bard Access, and QuartzDyne as guest lecturers. …

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