Rice University among first to offer engineering leadership certificate

engineerwoman215Rice University is offering engineering students a unique opportunity to show potential employers that they’re graduating with the right stuff to lead.

In May, Rice will begin awarding a Certificate in Engineering Leadership to graduates who complete an internship, 10 credit hours of required courses and labs, and a portfolio and final presentation. The program — the first of its kind in Texas and one of just a handful in the United States — is offered through the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.

“The days when an engineer could just get a solid academic background and expect to succeed in the world are over,” said Kaz Karwowski, executive director of the center. “We want to equip our Rice engineers with leadership skills, communication skills and all the know-how they need to thrive.”

Students at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership take classes, complete internships and participate in hands-on activities such as this outdoor course, which challenges teams to work together to overcome physical obstacles. Credit: Soward/Rice University

Students at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership take classes, complete internships and participate in hands-on activities such as this outdoor course, which challenges teams to work together to overcome physical obstacles. Credit: Soward/Rice University

Karwowski said the center began offering leadership courses when it was established in 2009, and more than 100 Rice engineering students are enrolled this semester. The certificate-granting program was formally adopted by Rice’s Faculty Senate this fall, which set the stage for the awarding of the first certificates in May.

Karwowski said the engineering schools at Rice, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and Cornell University are among those pioneering a new type of active, hands-on, engineering leadership education that is likely to become standard fare at engineering schools across the country.

He said the programs resulted from a 2004 National Academy of Engineering report titled “The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century.” The report included strategic recommendations for changing the way future engineers are educated.

“Three sets of skills — leadership, communication and teamwork — have become the core elements of Rice’s certificate program,” Karwowski said.

Activities and courses at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership are designed to teach and reinforce three key skills -- leadership, communication and teamwork. Credit: Soward/Rice University

Activities and courses at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership are designed to teach and reinforce three key skills — leadership, communication and teamwork. Credit: Soward/Rice University

And there’s strong evidence that recent engineering graduates value those skills once they get into the workforce. A 2012 survey of 333 Rice engineering graduates by David Niño, professor in the practice of engineering leadership at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, found that 75 percent rated leadership skills as “very important” or “crucial” to becoming successful engineers. Asked to similarly rate the importance of communication and teamwork skills, 89 percent and 95 percent, respectively, judged them “very important” or “crucial.”

For more information about the center and the certificate program, visit: http://rcel.rice.edu. Material from a press release was used in this report.

About the Author:

Contributor


Add your opinion to the discussion.