Read pages 113-118 Case Study 17 and answer questions 2-11 on pages 117-118.

– Read pages 113-118 Case Study 17 and answer questions 2-11 on pages 117-118. 

– Article critique, using the attached article and rubric 

DOI: 10.1002/yd.20486


Looking to the future: Four key purposes of engineering leadership education

Cindy Rottmann1 Meagan R. Kendall2

1University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

2The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA

Correspondence Cindy Rottmann, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. Email: [email protected]

Abstract The concluding article of this engineering leadership (EL) development sourcebook looks to the future of the field by exploring four key purposes of EL educa- tion: the pursuit of knowledge, personal growth, pro- fessional preparation and social transformation.


In contrast to many other fields of study that are rooted in theory, engineering leadership (EL) education is rooted in practice. As leaders of a relatively new field, our predecessors relied on entrepreneurial strategies, adeptly finding ways to integrate leadership develop- ment into engineering education and professional workplace settings. The primary advan- tage of this approach involved the opportunity to respond nimbly to ongoing change in the global higher education sector, while honouring the varied characteristics of local institu- tional and industry contexts. The corresponding disadvantage of seeding an academic field through entrepreneurial adaptation is the relative paucity of theoretically framed research necessary to catalyse communication across contexts.

Following two decades of high-speed programmatic innovation in EL education, the time has come to chart a more conceptually anchored course – asking for the first time, not only how we may tactically respond to changing needs, but also, how we may slow down and thoughtfully drive the field forward. The collection of articles in this New Directions for Student Leadership (NDSL) sourcebook honours the practical and entrepreneurial history of our field through illustrative case studies and practical recommendations for EL edu- cators, while moving the field forward through theoretically framed contributions. In this concluding article, we examine the collection as a whole in relation to four key purposes of EL education.


When EL program developers get together, we tend to discuss a few key topics related to program design, pedagogy, program assessment, securing funding and justifying pro- grams to university administrators. While these tactical considerations demand our ongo- ing attention, they can be difficult to address without first examining what we hope to

New Dir Stud Lead. 2022;2022:149–155. © 2022 Wiley Periodicals, LLC.


accomplish. Stated differently, how may we answer the question – leadership education for what? This goes beyond rationalizing the existence of our respective programs to senior administrators or funders. It is a more fundamental, philosophical question about the nature of knowledge, learning and intended impact.

For the remainder of this article, we reflect on four key purposes of EL education through a conceptual lens inspired by two educational philosophers. Portelli and Solomon (2001) note that the purpose of public education has historically been framed in three ways: as the pursuit of knowledge, as a process of personal growth and as a catalyst for social trans- formation. To these three purposes, we add the goal of education as professional prepa- ration, recognizing the distinct requirements of engineering as a profession with licensure requirements tied to the application of disciplinary knowledge.


For many new leaders, the experience of being thrown into supervisory or leadership roles feels more manageable when it is rooted in the conceptually framed experiences of others across organizational contexts. When research on leadership is grounded in the workplace realities of engineers, it may meet this need by providing novice engineers with a distilla- tion of lived experiences that transcend their individual life’s journey. The process of grap- pling with key concepts emerging from EL research enables engineering students and pro- fessionals to view their practice from a new vantage point, opening the door to diversified practice and innovation.

To the extent that we view the pursuit of knowledge as an important purpose of EL edu- cation, we should expose our students to existing leadership theories and support students’ leadership learning through exposure to various conceptual anchors. We may also engage them in EL research. By helping students systematically respond to their own EL enquiries in relation to the growing body of literature in this emerging field, we foster their curiosity and empower them to be co-constructors of EL knowledge. This can be done in a variety of ways. We can supervise student theses, hire students to participate in our research projects, integrate enquiry projects into our coursework or invite students to design and assess EL interventions.

Several of the EL programs highlighted in the Donald and Jamieson article of this source- book introduce students to leadership theory, with fewer involving them in EL enquiry projects. For more information on EL education as the pursuit of knowledge, please see the articles by Komarek (definitions and frameworks) and Novoselich and Knight (evalua- tion and assessment) in this sourcebook.


Many EL educators differentiate leadership development from managerial training by fos- tering personal exploration and growth through experiential education opportunities (Gra- ham, 2012; Graham et al., 2009; Kendall et al., 2018; Klassen et al., 2016; Paul & Cowe Falls, 2015; Rottmann & Handley, 2020). This emphasis on personal growth is echoed throughout the leadership development literature (Avolio, 1999; Conger, 1992). By emphasizing per- sonal awareness, exploration and growth, we enhance the life-long learning potential of our students as they navigate a range of contexts, supporting their development as human beings first. In this way, we prepare our students for the world beyond school and help them build their confidence as social actors.


It can be challenging to lead after receiving your first failing grade, watching your fifth design team implode, or finding yourself isolated in another time zone during a pandemic. It is in these moments that EL education as personal development has its greatest impact, enabling engineering students to be gentler with themselves and others when things fail to work out as planned. This realization prepares students to pivot in response to chang- ing circumstances at home, school and work, making them more effective engineers, more mindful human beings and more impactful leaders.

All seven of the EL programs profiled in the Donald and Jamieson article and the case studies included in part three of this sourcebook include a personal development approach to EL education. Students in these programs may learn about themselves through per- sonality or leadership style inventories, activities foregrounding interpersonal interactions, case study learning, design projects with reflective team process elements, guided reflec- tion on club leadership experiences or a combination of the above. For more information on EL as personal development, please see Didiano, Simpson and Bayless’ article (peda- gogical approaches), Wolfinbarger’s article (teamwork) and Schell and Hughes’s article (EL identity development) in this sourcebook.


Given the industrial roots of the field, it is not surprising that the most common approach to EL programing centres professional preparation. EL programs that favour this approach focus on honing students’ leadership competencies as a vehicle for workplace readiness. Much of the early EL research similarly taps into this professional preparation theme, sur- veying industry leaders about the skills and traits they are looking for in engineering grad- uates (Farr & Brazil, 2009; Farr et al., 1997; Goodale, 2005; Hartmann & Jahren, 2015; Hart- mann et al., 2017; Ivey, 2002; Pitts et al., 2013). Implications for EL program developers tend to involve scaffolding skill development in areas identified by industry-based research par- ticipants.

The rationale behind promoting EL for the sake of professional preparation is multi- faceted. First, given that engineering is a professionally regulated discipline with specific accreditation requirements, EL program developers may find it easier to solicit buy-in from university administrators, deans or department chairs by accepting responsibility for professional learning outcomes. Second, students carrying heavy debt loads may prior- itize professional development over the pursuit of knowledge, personal growth or social transformation because their immediate security and well-being depend on obtaining and retaining employment. Finally, as outlined in the case studies presented in part three of this sourcebook, many EL programs have close ties to industry, making professional prepara- tion a recognizable, desirable and easily measurable outcome. For more information on EL education as professional preparation, please see the article by Hadley, Lang, Mittan and Ragonese (history of EL), Donald and Jamieson’s article (EL programmatic diversity), the article by Melvin, Bowles and Steele (establishing EL programs) and Richardson and McCain’s article (leadership development in STEM) in this sourcebook.


Finally, we must be mindful that preparing engineering students to navigate and be suc- cessful in the world as it is, without permitting them to dream about and contribute to the world as it could or should be, makes us complicit in reproducing societal norms.


T A B L E 1 Four purposes of engineering leadership education addressed in this sourcebook

Purpose Significance Articles

Pursuit of knowledge Building on the wisdom of leadership theory and distilled practice

3 and 6

Personal growth Enhancing self-awareness and life-long learning 4, 5 and 10

Professional preparation Honing leadership competencies for workplace readiness 2, 7, 8 and 11

Social transformation Engineers leading socially impactful change 1 and 9

This brings us to the final purpose of EL development addressed in this sourcebook – social transformation. If we as EL educators fail to introduce social transformation into our courses and co-curricular offerings, students trained in a highly technical discipline may unintentionally restrict themselves to a narrowly functional scope.

If engineers exclusively solve problems of interest to their employers or corporate clients without considering the broader public interest, they are eschewing their ethical responsi- bilities as professionals. A commitment to public service is one of the key defining features of any profession (Larson, 1977), and one that has been codified (in the United States) and legislated (in Canada) through public paramountcy clauses in engineers’ ethical codes. More recently, engineers’ professional societies have begun integrating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their ethical codes (IEEE, 2017; Phillips et al., 2018). While some EL educators may be reluctant to name DEI as a formal element of engineers’ professional eth- ical responsibility, ignoring social justice will result in the reification of existing inequities in the profession and society (Cech, 2013).

One of the key aims we had when we began framing this NDSL sourcebook was to char- acterize DEI as an intrinsic aspect of EL programming. We intentionally integrated it into our introductory definition of EL (see the Editorial and the first article), dedicated a sepa- rate article by Pollock, Holly, Jr., and Leggett-Robinson to DEI in EL and prompted all seven case study authors to reflect on DEI in the context of their case studies. Please see Table 1 for a list of articles elucidating the four purposes of EL education we have outlined in this concluding chapter.


For EL education to effectively integrate the four purposes described above, we cannot wait until graduation. Engineers’ professional practice is an inherently sociotechnical endeav- our (Faulkner, 2000; Jesiek et al., 2019; Trevelyan, 2010), but formal engineering education is usually taught in a dualistic manner, separating core technical courses from complemen- tary courses on communication, leadership and professional ethics. Occasionally, engi- neering programs integrate leadership development into the core curriculum, but typi- cally it is left to the elective domain of co-curricular involvement (Knight & Novoselich, 2017). This inequality in leadership development opportunities leaves some students less prepared than others to assume the supervisory responsibilities they are likely to face 3–5 years post-graduation.

While there is evidence that professional engineers can and do learn to lead by leading (Begay-Campbell, 2010; Rottmann et al., 2019; Toor & Ofori, 2011; Trevelyan, 2010), few are provided with explicit leadership development opportunities prior to assuming formalized management positions. As a result, novice engineers learn to lead while busy doing other things, often fending for themselves or uncritically adopting the managerial styles of their


supervisors for the sake of expedience. Without the impetus to reflect on their aspirations, actions and impact, early-career engineers may unintentionally end up equating leader- ship with management, reproducing supervisory patterns already in place in their organi- zations, industries and the profession.

By privileging workplace practice as the optimal site of leadership development, we are not only depriving our students of meaningful professional development opportunities, but also depriving the profession of aspirational change agents. Additionally, given the pre- dominantly white, male demographics of the engineering profession (EC, 2018; Wilson, 2019), and the tendency of supervisors to tap ‘high potential leaders’ based on organiza- tional fit (Faulkner, 2009; Hatmaker, 2013; Nelson, 2014; Powell et al., 2009; Rottmann et al., 2021), our decision to leave leadership development to employers may serve to further reify inequities in the profession. One way to interrupt this process is to precede our discussion about how best to deliver and assess leadership programing with a philosophical explo- ration of why we should bother doing this work in the first place. Once we understand the purposes of EL education, we will be in a better position to support the development of our students, enabling them to lead the profession in a socially and technically impactful man- ner. Contributors to this sourcebook have built on the experiences of our entrepreneurial predecessors, while paving the way for theoretically informed practice in service of all four purposes of EL education outlined in this chapter.

To ensure that EL education continues to be impactful, forward-thinking and relevant, it must be driven by the pursuit of knowledge, personal growth, professional preparation and social transformation. Engineers are uniquely positioned to design sustainable solu- tions to some of the most pressing problems facing society, but they cannot do so without accepting that we live in, are produced by and shape history. Personal and professional development are important educational goals that primarily live in the present. As such, they are necessary but insufficient for the next generation of EL education.

We, as EL educators and researchers, need to help our students absorb and build on the wisdom of those who came before us, while simultaneously urging them to plan for a more sustainable and socially just future. To the extent that we ignore the past or leave the future of technical leadership to others, we will be hard-pressed as a society to address deteriorating infrastructure, poor water quality, air pollution, racist applications of artificial intelligence, climate change, cybersecurity or unsustainable reliance on non- renewable resources. It is time for engineering educators to take social transformation as seriously as personal growth, professional preparation and the pursuit of knowledge. We are well-positioned as leadership educators to do this work through thoughtfully designed, evidence-informed programming. Let us continue to drive meaningful change in the engi- neering profession and society, building on the work of our trailblazing predecessors and supporting one another along the way.

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Cindy Rottmann is the associate director of research at the Troost Institute for Lead- ership Education in Engineering at the University of Toronto. Dr. Rottmann’s research examines engineering leadership in professional practice, engineering career paths and the infusion of equity and social justice into engineering ethics education. She currently serves as the program chair of the Engineering Leadership Development Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. Dr. Rottmann holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in education.

Meagan R. Kendall is an associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Engineering Education and Leadership at The University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Kendall’s research focuses on student and faculty engineering leadership development, particularly for those from underrepresented populations in engineering. She currently serves as the chair of the Engineering Leadership Development Division of the American Society for Engineering Education. Dr. Kendall holds bachelor’s, mas- ter’s and doctoral d Plagiarism Free Papers

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