Incorporating professional experience into teaching
By Shannon L. Isovitsch Parks, PE, PhD, and Laura J. Dietz, PhD
Most graduating engineers have the technical skills to succeed and find work. Good communication skills set new graduates apart at career fairs as how they present themselves gives potential employers an idea how the engineer will work in teams, communicate with clients, and interact with regulators. In addition, good networking and presentation skills will most likely determine how quickly one advances in an engineering career, no matter their degree of technical skills. This is particularly true, as engineers typically advance through gaining managerial positions that require them to communicate effectively and lead teams of engineers to complete various projects. Therefore, integrating good communication skills into engineering curriculum is vital for the success of our students.
This paper will outline how effective communication skills were integrated into different teaching methods employed in a senior level undergraduate water/wastewater engineering course. Modifications to the class will be discussed in light of the goals of the course: to help students gain extensive communication practice, including writing, presenting, interviewing and networking with professionals, along with traditional engineering design skills. Traditional lectures were supplemented with a combination of on-site industry tours, guest lecturers, and a team design project from an actual consulting firm project. Students worked collaboratively in teams on homework, the design project, and even on exams. Benefits to students both expected and unexpected, such as a free 1-year professional society membership offered to each student in the class by one industry contact, will be discussed, as well as challenges and learnings. Student, industry professional, and recruiter measures on the importance they place on learning practical communication skills will be collected, analyzed, and presented.
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June 24, 2017, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 28, 2018
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