I like to think that engineers make good leaders. We have abilities in quantitative reasoning; in decision making, even when information is incomplete or ambiguous; and breaking down complex problems into manageable pieces. These broad skills can prove useful at every level of an organization, making engineers a natural fit to hold leadership positions.
I’m not the only one who feels this way—impressively, 22 percent of S&P 500 CEOs have an undergraduate degree in engineering, more than any other field.
Clearly, engineering education creates opportunity.
At Iowa State, we want to enhance our students’ engineering talents and provide them with options to develop their leadership skills. We recently formed a Certificate in Engineering Leadership curriculum that comprises a series of for-credit courses and practical experiences for students within the College of Engineering. After completing the certificate’s requirements, students receive formal recognition on their transcript and a certificate provided by the Office of the Registrar.
The curriculum’s topics encompass leadership style, business communication, project management, ethics, engineering law, technical team building, organizational behavior, and globalization. Each semester, I teach a seminar class that includes case studies and guest lectures by accomplished individuals in the public and private sectors.
Just like our academic departments, and our minors in sales and nuclear engineering, the leadership curriculum has a student organization associated with it. Emerging Leaders in Engineering is an official Iowa State student group, and its members work on projects and learn together outside the classroom.
In the spirit of collaboration, the certificate is a partnership between engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Engineering faculty teach some of the courses, and our colleagues across campus teach others.
I’m excited about this certificate because it adds a layer of business success skills on the solid foundation in science, engineering fundamentals, and design for which Iowa State’s program is well known. It also gives our graduates one more thing that will set them apart as they prepare for their next opportunity.