Employers know that Virginia Tech engineering students gain skills in analytical thinking and problem solving. These skills are desirable, but employers also want job candidates with experience in leadership. Surprisingly, the engineering field does not have a consensus definition for leadership. This missing definition makes it difficult for engineering faculty to teach undergraduates leadership skills. Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education Nick Clegorne and Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Denise Simmons recently received a grant from the NSF to investigate the definition of leadership in the field of engineering, construct a leadership development model for engineering students, and develop and test a tool that can measure leadership competency in engineers as they mature in their careers from undergraduates to practicing engineers.
“There is emerging evidence that indicates engineers engage in leadership development differently than other fields and that they require unique instruction to develop these skills. This grant will ultimately improve engineering curriculum,” said Clegorne.
Clegorne’s and Simmons’ research will start with a delphi study that surveys how engineering students, engineering faculty and practicing engineers view leadership. The grant, titled “Preparing a 21st Century STEM Workforce: Defining & Measuring Leadership in Engineering Education” starts in January. For more information, contact Nick Clegorne.