Fostering engineering leadership connections

May 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Through its challenging, relevant and dynamic program, Engineering Leadership Development (ELD) at Penn State provides students with unique professional engagement opportunities to enhance their engineering education and technical leadership skills.

Each semester, undergraduate ELD minor students and engineering leadership and innovation management (ELIM) graduate students connect with industry professionals representing some of the most well-known companies in the world. Many of these companies regularly engage with the ELD program through interaction in the classroom, networking events and hosting ELD students during corporate visits.

“Our engagement with Penn State ELD is important to us because it keeps us closely connected with the engineers who will soon join our workforce,” Paul Mittan, speciality hardware engineering manager at Lockheed Martin, said. “We want to know what’s important to them, how we can create an engaging work environment and how we can support their personal and professional goals. In return, the students have an opportunity to learn more about Lockheed Martin, our culture and most importantly, our mission.”

Visits to industry sponsor plants and headquarters of companies such as Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Rockwell Automation, Textron and Exelon introduce students to the role engineering leaders play in the day-to-day operations of a company.

Two men talking at a table

Throughout the year, Penn State Engineering Leadership Development program industry supporters attend luncheons and mock career fairs to interact and engage with ELD students.

IMAGE: Penn State

Meg Handley, associate director of engineering leadership outreach and assistant teaching professor, explained that during the visit, students tour the facility, learn from and network with engineering leaders and present information about their current projects.

“These [trips] enhance the educational experiences and are also great ways to highlight company culture and introduce students to engineering leaders, so they may network and possibly obtain jobs,” she said.

Recent ELD statistics highlight that of the students graduating in May 2019, 35 percent of those who have reported having received a full-time job offer will be working with one of ELD’s current industry supporters.

“While all Penn Staters are great students, ELD students are typically more motivated, have experiences that match our preferred requirements and they fit in with our company culture quite well,” Perry Bevivino, end user sales account manager at Rockwell Automation, said. “We would have trouble meeting that pool of talent at a crowded career fair, but our work with ELD provides easier access to those students.”

In addition to company visits, students connect with industry supporters at ELD’s mock career fairs. It’s at these career fairs where students often establish lasting relationships with recruiters, creating personal connections that lead to future internships or full-time placement.

Anna French, a senior industrial engineering student, secured her internships and later full-time job through building and maintaining relationships with Ingersoll Rand recruiters during ELD events.

“Since day one when I met the recruiter, we connected. He just understood my background and where I came from and where I was headed,” she said. “They saw I was excited to learn and grow as a person, as a student here, and also with their company.”

French described experiencing the company’s culture and liking it immediately. She first interned with Ingersoll Rand after her sophomore year in Tyler, Texas, for its residential manufacturing unit Trane.

She said when traveling to Ingersoll Rand, she was able to see a different part of the business world in a new part of the country, exposing her to new career focuses.

Last summer she was invited back to the company and worked in Charlotte, North Carolina in its distribution and logistics center. The facility is comprised of four different strategic units: power tools, fluid material technologies, compressor material technologies and material handling.  

Eight people standing in a line for a photo

In fall 2018, Penn State Engineering Leadership Development program students visited an Exelon office in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

IMAGE: Penn State

In addition to events like ELD career fairs, organized networking events and luncheons, corporate supporters are invited to participate in ELD’s yearly advisory board meeting. During this meeting, company representatives advise on ELD curricular changes to better align the program’s offerings with industry workforce needs, giving a competitive edge to ELD students. 

“These advisory board meetings with our corporate supporters provide invaluable opportunities to assure that our curriculum reflects the changing needs of today’s evolving engineering field,” Mike Erdman, Walter L. Robb Director of Engineering Leadership Development, said. “Having representation from engineering fields as diverse as automotive, aerospace, medical, energy, power, electronics, IT, construction, consulting, materials and mining and manufacturing keep the program relevant.”

Anthony Aloisi, who attributes his position at Siemens to building a foundation with recruiters while he was an ELIM graduate student, explained how ELD students generally hold an edge, placing them ahead of the competition when meeting with recruiters.

“I was not originally going to speak with Siemens and I almost didn’t. I laugh about it now, because that connection ended up being the most successful conversation,” he said. “And now my one-year anniversary is in July; the relationship was built, and it was successful.”

Aloisi visited Siemens at their office in Pittsburgh, during which he had an interview and was hired the next week. He now works in a rotational program for the company.

It’s these connections and experiences, available through ELD’s educational and networking opportunities, that many recruiters and alumni say better prepare students for life as a practicing engineer.

“Like anything in life, the experiential learning opportunities provide practice and practice makes perfect,” Mittan said. “These opportunities expose students to life outside the classroom. The better prepared they are for career fairs, interviews or what working at a company is like, the better they will ultimately perform in those situations. These experiences also help students shape their own personal stories to meet the expectations of a business.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 31, 2019