Veteran student leadership skills in an engineering technical writing course

Alyson Grace Eggleston, Robert J. Rabb

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Technical proficiency is a desirable skill for engineers, but often is only one proficiency on a list of required skills from employers. Within industry and education, there has been a pivot, resulting in engineering curricular changes that emphasize professional skills: organization, communication, ability to function on a team, and leadership, to name a few. Student veterans upon graduation provide many of these skills to industries and organizations. Requiring a highly structured leadership curriculum and formal experience for all their cadet students, service academies and senior military colleges provide optimal conditions for better understanding veteran classroom contributions, as well as the role of leadership inside the classroom and out. However, due to military obligations, much of this talent will not be immediately available to industry. Because many veterans served in the military before acquiring their academic education, student veterans are well-poised to exercise leadership roles and responsibilities immediately in and out of the classroom. Leadership training at The Citadel is formative and summative throughout a student's four-years. The institution has a formal, four-functional area leadership model that assesses leader development in multiple ways. Integrated in the leadership model are Leader Characteristics that describe a leader's actions. At The Citadel, professors help students develop the intellectual capacity to be leaders, by developing critical thinking, communications, philosophical, theoretical, and analytical skills associated with their development. In the model, sophomores engage by learning the skills associated with direct leadership of individuals and small teams and the management of duties. In a sophomore-level technical writing course (required of all engineering and computer science majors), sophomore-level leader development was assessed using the institution's criteria. These small teams had a hands-on, technical assignment that lasted several weeks. There was a difference in leadership skills and communication skills observed between the traditional students with their formal leadership curricula and the student veterans. Student peers consistently rated student veterans higher in all areas of the leadership attributes, demonstrating that the student veterans were having a positive impact in the classroom. This paper presents a brief overview of a new project-based assignment in a technical writing course designed to assess multiple outcomes, its institution-specific implementation, and current veteran success indicators. Data from surveys and institutionally-defined leadership characteristics are presented. Finally, by teaming student veterans with traditional students, technical writing educators can provide opportunities for student veterans to demonstrate in-classroom leadership and contribute experiential insight for the collective benefit of student veterans and their traditional student counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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