Connecting engineering students' perceptions of professional competencies and their leadership development

Denise R. Simmons, University of Florida
Nicholas Clegorne, Kennesaw State University
Madeline Polmear, University of Florida
Matthew Scheidt, Purdue University
Allison Godwin, Purdue University


The evolving challenges and demands of engineering require future professionals to have a broad skillset. To be adequately prepared for industry, undergraduate engineering students need to recognize the importance of professional competencies and develop their leadership identities. This sequential explanatory mixed-methods study investigated the connection between ratings of professional competencies that enable leadership (referred to as leadership-coupled professional competencies) and the leadership development process. Cluster analysis was used to identify discrete groupings of undergraduate engineering students based on survey responses indicating their perceptions of the value of 19 leadership-coupled professional competencies to their future careers. A subset of respondents was interviewed to explore their perspectives on skills needed to be successful after graduation, their leadership experiences, and their leadership identity development stage. The quantitative and qualitative analyses were mixed, and suggested that students who place greater value on leadership-coupled professional competencies are at more advanced stages in their leadership identity development. The results indicate the benefit of cultivating professional competencies and leadership identities in the undergraduate engineering experience to increase students' awareness of the leadership development process and their workforce preparation.