Alumni industry experts provide valuable insight


The Case Alumni Association and the Division of Engineering Leadership and Professional Practice team at the Case School of Engineering brought together engineering alumni to offer feedback from an industry perspective regarding professional development for engineering students. The outcome: all agreed providing more professional development opportunities to students is critical in creating industry-ready alumni upon graduation.

The participating team members suggested pairing alumni directly with students and identified ways in which to do so. DELPP shared information about a new requirement for engineering students, ENGR-396, beginning in the 2017-18 academic year. Taught by a Weatherhead School of Management instructor, ENGR-396 is a professional development lab for engineers offered as a pilot program spring semester.

“This course is much different from most other engineering courses. Whether or not a student ends up in a technical management position, the tools and insights from this course will benefit him or her in all walks of life,” said Ellen Van Oosten, assistant professor of organizational behavior and faculty director of executive education at Weatherhead. “As an engineering graduate myself, I have firsthand knowledge of the importance of this course and am honored and excited to help our students achieve their goals.”

The course is modeled after the flagship LEAD course in place at Weatherhead for over 25 years. Intentionally designed to support and broaden a student’s self-awareness, professional competencies and teaming skills, 20 percent of the final grade requires students to conduct career informational interviews with individuals in a career or job of interest.

Brittney Sunday who graduated in 2017 with a degree in chemical engineering took the professional development lab and said it was perhaps the best class she ever took. “One of the biggest takeaways from this class was learning about the differences in people and their learning styles, including my own learning style,” Sunday said. “We were tasked with interviewing professionals in fields of interest, which helped me solidify my career plans.”

Michael Siberski completed his undergraduate degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 2016. He works under contract as a fuel cell test engineer at General Motors in Detroit. He originally heard about the professional development lab in mid-November 2015, just before his last semester of school.

Siberski learned a lot about the functioning of teams, emotional intelligence and the behavioral patterns of good leaders. He was not expecting the amount of work the students did trying to understand themselves as individuals with unique talents and tendencies, and how to apply them. In that respect, he said the course greatly exceeded his expectations and considered it a turning point in his life.

 Photo Credit: Hilary Bovay