A Follow-Up Study of a First-Year Leadership and Service Learning Module
A five-week module focusing on leadership and service learning was implemented as part of a first-year engineering course. This module presented mechanisms for developing professional skills and provided hands-on application of these skills through a K-12 service learning project at a science museum. The other modules offered in the course emphasized traditional engineering topics. This longitudinal study focuses on the students from the course as they enter their third year in engineering. Our previous study demonstrated that incorporating leadership studies into a freshman-level engineering course correlated with increased confidence in students’ abilities just after completion of the course, which could positively impact retention. Eighty-seven students from both leadership and non-leadership modules were assessed over one year later using the same online survey based on ABET/National Academy of Engineering (NAE) criteria with additional open-ended questions. Follow-up data reveal that alumni of the leadership module had a significant net increase in confidence in six professional/technical skills and are generally more aware of the role of leadership in engineering. Qualitative comments show these students felt they gained influential early exposure to what a successful engineer needs, and they reported more active leadership roles both on campus and in industry through internships. While increases in confidence did occur for students in the leadership module, decreases in other categories suggest a need for continued professional development in undergraduate engineering education to complement technical competencies addressed during junior and senior years.