Increasingly, employers are looking for engineering graduates with leadership skills to complement their technical abilities. At Iowa State, community leadership and public service is an academic certificate program designed to develop the leadership, communication and organizational abilities in its graduates, including many engineers.
Administered by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences through the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and available to all university students, the College of Engineering is looking to grow the number of engineering majors in the program.
“The College of Engineering doesn’t want to graduate just engineers but rather engineers who can lead,” said Scholar in Residence for Leadership Education Clint Stephens, who is administrator for the program.
The certificate is earned through interdisciplinary coursework from all colleges of the university and is designed to teach students effective leadership practices, ethics, principles of public service and communication skills.
“This is more substantial than a minor,” said Stephens. “It’s 21 credits instead of 15 credits for a minor, and the value it adds to an engineering degree is considerable. Employers definitely take notice.”
Materials engineering senior Dan Voss will graduate in December with the certificate as well as minors in economics and political science, and he considers the additional academic challenge beneficial to his studies as an engineer.
“Leadership is really all about working with people and figuring out the best way to unite people with different goals and motivations to a common purpose,” said Voss. “That may seem self-evident, but the program gave me a lot of practical tools to accomplish that.”
It was knowledge he was able to integrate with his other leadership experiences as a student, both in Engineers Without Borders and as a senator in the Government of the Student Body for the College of Engineering.
“I definitely see an improvement in how I manage my time, my work responsibilities and my interactions with others. And it’s something employers have responded to very positively,” said Voss, who completed an internship with Donaldson Filtration Solutions over the summer, working at a manufacturing facility in Cresco, Iowa, for the Bloomington, Minn., -based organization.
Voss is one of 13 Iowa State graduates to earn the certificate in CLPS in 2013, and the only student in the College of Engineering to do so.
Stephens said the program launched in 2008, and currently has 60 students enrolled, with 18 of them from the College of Engineering.
Students can begin the program their first semester and complete it as a full-time student without additional semesters if they develop their plan of study for both their major and the certificate together.
“My advice to engineering students is begin early,” said Stephens. “With careful mapping even aerospace majors, who have the least flexibility in their curriculum, can finish in four years. But even upper-class students who take at least one leadership class before they graduate and say it was really beneficial.”