Using $570,000 in NSF seed money, Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering and the school’s Division of Student Affairs are launching an innovative leadership program for engineering students. The program, called Engineering Leadership Education and Development, will begin as a five-year program to identify and work with a group of 16 students at the university, plus help attract high school-aged females to the field of engineering.
Doreen Edwards, dean of AU’s engineering school, explains E-LEADS by noting that leadership and teamwork skills are needed for a successful engineering career. She says, “We hope to teach students that leadership occurs at all levels within an organization and that they can apply their leadership skills during their very first job as new engineers. We are particularly interested in developing leadership around issues related to gender in the science and engineering fields.”
The leadership program Edwards and others are crafting at AU might not fit the stereotyped notion of “leadership” and will be based on what is known as the Social Change Model (pdf). Julia Overton-Healy, director of the Women’s Leadership Center, explains that SCM “assumes that there are core values held within ethical leadership, and taken together, create change for the common good. Leadership, then, is not positional: it becomes a shared endeavor of committed persons working toward a common goal.”
Overton-Healy says scholars selected for E-LEAD will learn specific leadership skills. Moreover, she notes, the scholars will be helped in three strategic areas: identifying their core strengths, aptitudes and values; understanding how their experiences, privileges and disadvantages shapes how they lead; and locating opportunities to improve gender inequity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Skills training will include public speaking, meeting management, time management, listening, and conflict resolution.
Overton-Healy says they expect the mix of theory, self assessments, skill building and real-world application will give E-LEAD scholars higher self confidence and efficacy in assuming leadership roles. They say one component will be “community building” that will include peer mentoring, colocated student housing and networking events. E-LEADS will also be able to leverage programming already offered by AU’s Women’s Leadership Center.
In regard to career development, E-LEADS will provide on-campus research opportunities for first-year students, résumé and interviewing workshops, optional co-op educational experiences and summer internships.
Edwards and Overton-Healy will serve as coprincipal investigators. They plan on using the first year of the project on program development and recruitment of the first group of E-LEAD scholars. The grant is expected to provide scholarships to 16 male and female students throughout their academic career, plus support outreach activities aimed at increasing the number of female students in engineering.
While the NSF funding provides support for the first five years, Edwards and Overton-Healy view E-LEADS as a long-term effort, and say they will be seeking corporate support to make it a sustainable program for engineering students.