I thought other Olin community members might be interested in this 2009 white paper on engineering leadership programs at universities we're reading for Monica Cox's "Leadership, Policy, & Change in STEM Education" course at Purdue. It's a survey of "programs that are trying to make undergraduate engineering students better leaders," and some of their interview subjects were familiar names at Olin -- Rick Miller, Norman Fortenberry, etc.

A couple notes that stood out to me as being particularly cool for Oliners interested in leadership development / entrepreneurship  (I have more detailed notes upon request):

  • "When asked to identify best practice approaches to engineering leadership, many non-US interviewees also spoke about successful approaches using problem-based learning. Aalborg University and Olin College of Engineering were both widely cited and highly recommended in this regard." (Direct quote, p. 16 -- international people know about us.)
  • Most "engineering leadership education" programs are in the USA, are less than 5 years old, inspired by the ABET 2000 criteria, and have either a business-theory flavor or a "save the world with projects!" flavor. Outside the USA there are fewer programs and they're usually not called "engineering leadership" because of cultural discomfort with designating some people as "leaders" -- that's not "equitable!"
  • American "engineering leadership" people are usually familiar with "engineering leadership" programs... but only in America. International "engineering leadership" people are usually not familiar with "engineering leadership" programs (maybe because they don't get named/marketed specifically as such), but are familiar with "engineering leadership" things outside their own country. Generally, though, a lot of this work (as of 2009) happens in isolation; programs don't know about each others' existence.
  • Programs tend to fall into the following categories (document pages 5-6, parenthical notes with Olin examples from me): those that are "business-school-ish" and based on the theory of leadership and management (FBE or anything-with-Babson), those that are based on team projects that are often save-the-world in flavor (ADE and many other projects), those that are based on "coaching" junior students in project teams (pretty much everything at Olin), and those based on "real world" industry experiences (SCOPE).
  • Selectivity is a huge deal for many of these programs; only a small number of "elite" students participate in them (picked via applications, test scores, or whatever means). It's weird to have everyone at a school do "leadership development."

Some fascinating food for thought here. I'm one of those people who thinks Olin is doing a pretty good job at "developing leadership," but could always do better -- and I'd personally love to see more exploration/experimentation in this area. I've heard that FBE and alot of E! stuff got rebooted last term so I'm curious to hear what happened with that.