Posted October 10th, 2012 by Engineering

U of T Engineering Talks Leadership Education with Top North American Institutions

How do you create a leadership culture in engineering?

From September 27-28, a group of more than 35 educators and industry professionals from across North America gathered at U of T to discuss their pursuit of that common goal.

The idea of transforming the personal potential of all engineering students is a hefty challenge. But one that’s made universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Pennsylvannia State University, Tufts University and U of T, leading examples in higher education. They are among the 10 engineering schools who, Canadian and American, make up COMPLETE.

COMPLETE – the Community of Practice for Leadership Education for Twenty-first-century Engineers – aims to enhance engineering education by infusing leadership development into the student experience. Initiated in 2010 by the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, the group has met annually to share each institution’s best practices, successes and even failures.

“As one of the founding members of COMPLETE, we’re very pleased by the progress, information exchange and professional camaraderie of this group,” said Leo McGonagle, Executive Director of the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. “Leadership education in engineering is still a nascent field, and we’re excited about the growing role COMPLETE is playing to help educators understand the importance of developing tomorrow’s engineering leaders.”

The most recent meeting brought the group to U of T Engineering for the very first time, where Professor Doug Reeve (ChemE) spearheaded the discussion.

“This meeting is about ‘engineers leading change to build a better world. It is about connecting our work in the University to drive transformation of the engineering profession,” said Professor Reeve, who heads the Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering (ILead) and the Engineering Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) program with Professor Greg Evans (ChemE) at U of T.

Indeed, U of T Engineering continues to be at the forefront of leadership education in Canada and North America. LOT recently celebrated 10 years of engineering leadership programming and now offers curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular leadership education and development. And ILead’s mission is three-fold: teaching (through LOT), pedagogical research and outreach – a first of its kind in Canada.

At the two-day conference, COMPLETE members discussed every facet of how to advance leadership education, from a panel discussion with industry leaders William (Bill) Troost (ChemE 6T7), CEO of Peel Plastics Ltd., David Colcleugh (ChemE 5T9) formerly CEO of Dupont Canada, Dr. Emily Moore of HATCH and U of T Engineering Dean Cristina Amon, to assessing and measuring leadership development, to the power of storytelling.

The latter struck a chord with Professor David Bayless, who directs the Robe Leadership Institute at Ohio University, and heads the Leadership Constituent Committee at the American Society for Engineering Education.

Like many of the educators at the conference, Professor Bayless hopes to bring some of the ideas back to his engineering faculty. That’s easier said than done, however.

“I teach a leadership development course, something that’s taken 15 years to cultivate,” he said. “Most faculty members are passionate about the technical side of teaching, they’re not all sold on bringing leadership into the curriculum.”

But, he added, “We here believe, without question, that innovation requires leadership.”