PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - Logo - DECEMBER 2004 - VOLUME 14, NUMBER 4
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On Campus: Rising to the Top

By Robert Gardner


When students are asked to arrange themselves into groups, the results are usually mixed. Friends pick one another and the best students seek each other out, leaving the weaker students together and the groups unbalanced. The extent of the person's knowledge of the subject matter and his or her experience are rarely considered. Indeed, how could they be, without, say, a résumé? Lloyd Hile, professor of chemical engineering at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), considered this question and decided that pouring over résumés could help his students put together a better group. After all, building effective teams is a skill they will have to master when they leave school and begin their careers.

Over the past four years, Hile has had his senior chemical engineering lab students write résumés. And since students in these classes spend most of their time working in groups, it seemed logical to have them use résumés to form their groups. "I was surprised how many students," Hile says, "at the senior level didn't already have a résumé." In advising students on writing their résumés, Hile suggests templates on word processing programs like Microsoft Word and going to the CSULB Career Development Center. The ones developed over time and in multiple iterations are the best, he says.

Although most students acknowledge the need for a résumé, they don't all take the exercise seriously. Hile says there are always one or two students who show up to class without a résumé. "I tell them right then and there to pull out a piece of paper and write something down."

Once all the students have turned in their résumés, Hile covers the names and any identifying information with Post-it notes and lays them on a table. He then chooses several "team selectors" from among those students who have gotten the best grades in the prerequisite courses. This method ensures that every group created has at least one strong student. "I want to make sure that each group has a rock that it can hang from," Hile says.

Team selectors then draw numbers from a hat to determine the order of selection. The selectors choose their teams in order and then alternate (so the person who chose first last time picks last the next) until all the teams are chosen.

Hile conducts a post mortem after the teams are selected, asking students why they made the choices they did. Part of the discussion, Hile says, focuses on the kinds of things that should be on a résumé. The goals of the exercise are twofold: to get students to understand that a résumé is an important piece of paper and to help them learn how to build an effective team.

Robert Gardner is Associate Editor of Prism Magazine.


Engineering For Everyone - By Bethany Halford
Model Behavior - By Pierre Home-Douglas
Answering the Call - By Robert Gardner
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Tech View - By Mary Kathleen Flynn
Really Cricket: More British universities are offering degrees in sports engineering. - By Thomas K. Grose
On Campus: Rising to the Top - By Robert Gardner
Research: Delivering the Goods - By John Gilligan
Faculty's Finest: Kevin Kit Parker - By Thomas K. Grose
LAST WORD: Technological Paternalism - By Julia M. Williams


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