LANCE COLLINS: Thank you very much, Heather. And it's a pleasure to welcome everyone that's online. I'm delighted to be doing my second of these webinars. So the first of them was a sort of overview of the college. There was a broad discussion about all of the activities that are going on in the college. And out of that discussion came some really interesting questions and interest in our new engineering leadership program. And so it occurred to me that maybe this was a good time to do it a slightly deeper dive on that program and devoting this hour to that program.
So I'm really happy I'm going to introduce my guest Erica Dawson in a moment. But before I do that, I thought I'd start by saying a little bit about how this program came into being. As Heather mentioned, I was director of mechanical and aerospace engineering before becoming dean. And in that capacity, I was overseeing a significant fraction of the project teams that were going on.
And in fact, I was often amazed with the quality of leadership that the students were able to show consistently from year to year in many of the projects and project teams. But on occasion, there were times when some of the teams had some difficulties. And it occurred to me that it'd be great for us to have a more structured way of teaching the students about leadership. And so this was something that I carried with me into my term as dean.
I had a conversation with one of our alumni, and he was also taken with that sort of notion that maybe we should be doing something a little bit more structured around leadership. And in fact, he was generous enough to make a significant donation to underwrite a pilot program, which is what I'll be talking to you about today. In addition to that individual, who prefers to remain anonymous, I had a conversation at our engineering college council. And a member of that council-- Charlie Brown, who is class of '72-- he also felt very strongly that this was a very interesting program. And he has contributed additional support, which has allowed us to have, in addition to Erica, an associate director to help enhance the program even further.
So I'm very excited to be bringing this to you. I think this will be an interesting conversation. So let me bring in now Erica Dawson into the conversation. Let me start with a little introduction.
So Erica is a teacher, a researcher, executive coach, and director of the Leadership Program in the College of Engineering. In 2010, she co-founded the program on organizational ethics at MIT'S Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. Previously, she was an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. She has coached leaders in executive education programs at Yale, MIT, UC San Diego, and Cornell.
Erica's research focuses on motivated reasoning, or the ways in which people's decision-making may be biased by their desires for one conclusion or course of action over another. Her most recent work proposes a model of leadership built on four pillars-- knowledge, experience, insight, and courage. An expert in leadership, negotiation, and conflict management, Erica consults worldwide for organizations ranging from large multinational consulting firms to small nonprofits. She is a skilled coach, working one-on-one to help individuals develop as visionary leaders, and confidently uses negotiation to build relationships and meet their interests.
One day, she hopes to design a leadership development experience that incorporates one of her passions-- skydiving. So Dr. Dawson earned a PhD in social psychology from Cornell University. So it's a pleasure, Erica, to welcome you to this program.
ERICA DAWSON: Thanks very much.
LANCE COLLINS: And I thought, just to kick things off, it would be good if you could give some sort of a high-level overview of what you're trying to do. And just to provide the audience some context, this program is only one year old. So this is really getting a lot of things off the ground in a really impressive way-- but if you could just give us some sense of what the program is all about.
ERICA DAWSON: Sure, so as you mentioned, we're in a three-year experimental phase, a pilot phase of the program. And so the associate director, [? Werner Zorman, ?] and I have spent our first year, which will come to a close in August-- that will be when we started all of this-- we really spent our time trying to get a feel for the college, understand the culture, understand the needs of the faculty and students, and then do a lot of experimentation about different ways to introduce leadership content into the curriculum.
So we've been experimenting with some ways to work with classes that are already established and other ways to offer some standalone offerings. So as an example, we have worked with the 1050s-- the engineering 1050 classes, which is the first year-- advising classes. All of our freshmen students take it. And so we spent most of September last year interacting with the first-year students in those classes. We have also started working with project team leaders. So we have some incredible project team leaders here. And what they are accomplishing is amazing.
LANCE COLLINS: And if we think about where-- or at least where I was at that age, it's hard for me to imagine what they're able to accomplish.
ERICA DAWSON: I've been astounded.
LANCE COLLINS: That's a whole other conversation.
ERICA DAWSON: Well, as a social scientist, I produce papers. And they produce robots. It's really been-- cars-- it's really been pretty amazing what they can do. So we have a very active team culture here, as you know. And so we've started working with the project team leaders and subteam leaders in a more deliberate way than they've had in the past, just to support them in their leadership of the teams.
We also have experimented with getting into some design classes. So we worked with these classes where teams naturally occur. The students work in teams anyway. And as an example, rather than having them just pick their buddies and work with friends for a semester, we tried to match them based on their strengths, their teamwork strengths. So we did an assessment with them. We created teams based on complementary strengths, and then we supported them throughout the term with some rotational leadership, getting feedback, and de-briefing that-- so not a huge intervention, but a huge impact, actually.
And then, this spring, we've offered over 20 different standalone seminars on a variety of topics. We just blitzed the college with these. And we were using them as a way to experiment with some content and to get feedback from the students before we roll out a certificate program, which will be coming this next year.
LANCE COLLINS: That's quite an impressive set of activities in one year. So thank you for everything that you're doing with respect to that. I'd like to take just a moment to talk about one aspect of this, which, I think, you and I know. We've talked about this a lot offline, that we really wanted something that would actually touch all of the students, instead of just a certain subset of students. There's a tendency to create programming that is looking to advance people that are already, in some sense, far along. And so there was this notion that we had of having a program that really would touch all of the students; so just a moment, if you don't mind, about how that ended up happening in the Engineering 1050 class.
ERICA DAWSON: Yes. So our eventual goal is to have a three-tiered approach to this, where we have some content that we bring to all of our students. We really want all of our students, as you say, to have exposure to leadership concepts before they graduate. Another tier might be for some who are just ready for more advanced contents-- not everybody, but people who stick their hand in the air and say that they want more; and then a deeper dive for maybe 30 to 40 students a year, who are really ready to commit to some deep personal and professional learning. So that the part that you're talking about, the 1050s, I think, is our best opportunity to interact with first-year students right as they come through our door.
And as we scale this up, we'd like to really get into all of those classes. This year, we anticipated maybe being involved in five of those classes or so. And we ended up getting invited to 13 of them.
LANCE COLLINS: That's right. So there was clearly excitement.
ERICA DAWSON: There's a lot of excitement. And as a result, we interacted with over half of our new first-year's class.
LANCE COLLINS: That's fantastic.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, so they're getting the message.
LANCE COLLINS: So let me move on. So one of the questions that I get from many, many alumni and others is really almost a philosophical question that I'd like you to take a cut at. And that is, is leadership something that you can teach, or is it just something that you intrinsically are born with? And I just want your thoughts about that, if you don't mind.
ERICA DAWSON: Of course-- I mean, obviously, the fact that I'm here suggests that I think this is teachable, I hope. Yes, I firmly believe this is teachable, that you can teach leadership. There are a whole constellation of skills and practices that go into leadership. And almost all of them are things that we can develop in people. So when we talk about things like emotional intelligence, that's actually a skill that can be developed, your ability to relate to others and to understand their emotions and your own emotions. That's something we can develop in anybody. And it's actually a pretty big part of leadership.
Lots of other skills, I think, go into leadership, that we're trying to address. I guess that the interesting thing is, why would you think that you can't teach leadership? And in fact, a lot of people do come to me with that question. They say, well, wait-- there's a natural leader; we all know them when we see them, and that's really who we need to be supporting.
And when you dig a little deeper, I mean, what I often find is that this natural leader-- they're really thinking about leadership in one specific vision of what leadership is. And often, what they're picturing is somebody who's very outgoing and gregarious and charismatic and has big ideas and the light of the party.
LANCE COLLINS: They walk into the room, and everybody feels their presence.
ERICA DAWSON: Exactly, exactly. And I'm going to skip the engineering joke here. But let's just say, we're all glad that that's not the only way that you can lead, right? Many people are very outgoing, but there are lots of people who aren't. That's just not their natural personality. And I really believe that they are leaders and have the potential to be leaders just as much as the person with the huge, outsized personality. It just looks different. And so part of our goal is to help students to develop authentic leadership, to really--
LANCE COLLINS: Based on their intrinsic--
ERICA DAWSON: Based on their personality--
LANCE COLLINS: --abilities and skills.
ERICA DAWSON: --and their interests and their passions and their values, and not trying to look like somebody else's idea of a leader.
LANCE COLLINS: So I guess, having said that, though, it probably is fair to say some people are more inclined than others. There may be some sense that there are different levels of ability, but on the other hand, each can be better than they were, if they weren't getting some instruction.
ERICA DAWSON: Exactly right. So I think, at one time, you used the analogy of learning a second language, where some people, it seems like they were just born with it. Maybe they were raised in a multi-lingual household, and it looks like they just came here with it. Others might pick up a second language fairly easily. Others-- it's going to take a while. They might struggle a little bit. But everybody can move forward on the continuum, no matter where they're starting.
LANCE COLLINS: So that's great. So let me move on. So give me a sense of what you're trying to achieve. You're building the program. What are your goals for the program?
ERICA DAWSON: Well, our ultimate goal is to see more Cornell engineers in positions of influence in the world. I really think that we are facing a lot of problems at a societal and a global level, not just technical problems, but sociopolitical problems, economic problems. And I think that we really need to have some leadership in our most talented and our most skilled individuals. And those are engineers.
And so ultimately, know our long-term goal is to graduate students who are able to match their technical knowledge with the ability to excite other people about some potential solutions, and actually get us all moving in the same direction.
LANCE COLLINS: In the end, these problems require mobilizing lots and lots of people. It's more than just a single person going off and getting a technical solution.
ERICA DAWSON: Exactly. I mean, nothing of any significance was ever accomplished by one person working in isolation.
LANCE COLLINS: Well, I could take exception with that. But I won't. So give me a sense of-- so that's a fantastic and, in some sense, a lofty goal. How will you know if you're making progress and if you're succeeding?
ERICA DAWSON: So part of this is really just looking at where our alum are going. And that's something that we're starting now to track the trajec-- trajectory-- excuse me-- after people leave. I'm hearing from a lot of alum, in this last year, things like, I really wish I would have had this when I was at Cornell.
And so I think tapping into that sentiment and seeing if we're really changing the sentiment from "I wish I had it" to "I'm really glad I did," I think that's one measure, that we're creating some knowledge that's following students in a meaningful way. So I think tracking alarm is one thing that I want to look at and how they're doing once they leave here. We're also looking at metrics, things just like student engagement. So how much interest do we have from students? How many people are turning out to this [? context? ?]
LANCE COLLINS: And what do you have to say so far? What do you think in just your first two semesters?
ERICA DAWSON: So much excitement about this-- we almost can't handle it. We're almost at capacity. There's so much excitement on the students' part about this program. So that's, I think, a very good measure.
And then, depending on what it is that we're trying to do, the specific program that we're talking about, there are some hard core metrics, things like grades. So in the design class that we were in, we're already seeing that the grades this year were significantly higher than the grades from the past two years, where students chose their own teams and didn't have this leadership support.
LANCE COLLINS: Drill into that a little bit further, if you don't mind. So say a little bit about what was different, you think, this year relative to the other years, and how that translated into a higher level performance.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, so what we really tried to hit with these students was, first of all, a smart composition of teams, rather than picking people who are just like us, and tapping into what we know about teams, which is the diversity, leveraged correctly, is really a benefit.
LANCE COLLINS: So just so I know-- so the two years prior, who selected the teams? Did the students select their own, or were they assigned?
ERICA DAWSON: The students basically selected their own.
LANCE COLLINS: I see. So they'd picked their friends mostly.
ERICA DAWSON: They pick their friends. They pick their bodies, thinking that, liking the people you're with, is the most important factor. It turns out that, when things really get stressful at the middle or end of a semester, being a buddy is not probably the best way to have a team perform effectively. So we instituted, or, excuse me, administered a StrengthsQuest assessment. It's a pretty common assessment. All the students took it. And they got some feedback about their strengths beyond just the technical.
LANCE COLLINS: So are you giving these-- administering these with the staff and faculty, as well?
ERICA DAWSON: We could. We might want to.
LANCE COLLINS: I'm sorry. But I digress. So back to your story.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, actually, that's not an aside. I think that's actually a very important point, that the--
LANCE COLLINS: I'm too nervous to know what will come out of that. But I think that's-- no, no, no, I think it's important.
ERICA DAWSON: We all benefit from knowing where we have the biggest impact naturally. And that's really what this gets at. So we composed teams based on complementary strengths. So we had some people who are really great at execution-- they get things done-- combined with other people who are really great at relationships. They make sure that people are included in everybody's learning and contributing--
LANCE COLLINS: I see.
ERICA DAWSON: --as an example.
LANCE COLLINS: I see.
ERICA DAWSON: Then we supported them with just a couple of short lectures with some actual content around leadership and teamwork. And I think that probably the biggest impact was just where we focused their attention. So we had the groups, in the beginning, create a team contract, where, up front, they talked about--
LANCE COLLINS: Like in writing?
ERICA DAWSON: In writing.
LANCE COLLINS: Wow.
ERICA DAWSON: They all had to sign it and send it to us. And they talked upfront about things like, what are our goals? And some of them were surprised to learn that they didn't all have the same goal. It wasn't necessarily our goal was an A plus. There were other goals that came out in that process. And we had them talk about how they would measure their success, what they were going to do when conflict arises in the group-- because it always does. And so upfront, I think we helped them come up with a strategy for when things get really stressful.
LANCE COLLINS: So you rolled this thing out. And then what was the outcome of it?
ERICA DAWSON: So when we looked-- and we just got the outcome-- when we looked at the metrics like the grades, as I said, the grades were significantly higher than in the past two years, where they didn't have this leadership component, and much less variance. So the professor actually said he had a really hard time making distinctions between an A and an A minus, for example. It was a very tough call for him.
LANCE COLLINS: Because basically, all the teams performed at a very high level.
ERICA DAWSON: They all performed at a high level, and they were all involved. This is a big difference he saw. Typically, in some teams, where you just let the leadership emerge, some members will hide out-- the less confident or less engaged. By instituting a system where everybody had to take a chance leading, I think we ended up engaging the entire class in a way that hadn't been done.
LANCE COLLINS: And it's really interesting, because, again, we all have our intuitions about how these things go. But in some sense, what you're saying is there is a methodical way of constructing the team, in the first place, and then equipping the team with the skills to allow them to perform at a higher level.
ERICA DAWSON: That's right.
LANCE COLLINS: That's very interesting. Tell me a little bit of how faculty have been responding to this program. Is there excitement or trepidation? What's their take on things?
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, it's a fair question. Anytime there's change, there's likely to be a little of both of those things. I've had nothing but a very warm and enthusiastic reception from faculty around all of this. So I have a terrific faculty advisory group, who's been very supportive in giving a lot of guidance as we work our way through this first year.
And I think one indication of how this went was just to look at what happened with the 1050s. These are professors who teach these advising classes. In some ways, it's a bit of a thankless job for some of them. And we didn't know what our reception would be.
LANCE COLLINS: [? They ?] wouldn't say that. No, we love them. We love them all.
ERICA DAWSON: We love that. Many of them love the teaching. But we thought, again, maybe five of them would be interested. And instead, almost everybody wanted us to come in. And I'm starting to get requests now from other people in other departments, who teach design classes, who have heard about our success and want us to come in and help there-- so just a lot of interest in having us both integrate into classes that are already standing and in what we're offering as a standalone.
LANCE COLLINS: So there's [INAUDIBLE] people see the value. And I mean, it's apparent that this is a need and that students are receptive, et cetera. So that's really good to know. So another question that I get a lot is-- again, it's a kind of high-level, philosophical one. So are we producing-- I mean, so we're producing these leaders, but in some sense, you have one leader; you might have many, many followers. So what does this mean? Are we producing a lot of alpha individuals that are always going to want to be on top? Or is there, in some sense, a role for followership
ERICA DAWSON: So our brand of leadership is definitely also about followership. I really don't think of people as being leaders or not. We're all leaders sometimes. We're all followers other times. And I think part of the art of this is to realize where you as an individual might have the most impact. Is it your turn to stand up and lead, or is it your turn to support somebody else's vision?
And so the program that we'll be rolling out this fall, the certificate program, definitely takes that orientation, that leadership is not about having a title or a position or the alpha spot. It's about recognizing, in any given situation, what your contribution might be, and being willing and able to stick your hand in the air and lead, when that's what's needed.
LANCE COLLINS: So in some sense, learning leadership may actually allow you to perform at a higher level, even when you're not in the leadership role, but where you're, in some sense, following someone else's vision, because it's a strong vision?
ERICA DAWSON: Absolutely. What I think, again-- we saw that, with the project teams class, a lot of the de-brief that we heard from the students was that understanding what was going on with the leader for a particular deliverable made it much easier for them to be an effective follower. They were really able to support that person in the team in a way that they hadn't been before.
LANCE COLLINS: There's also one of the aspects of leadership is delegation, right? So in some ways, it's having that sense of trust and empowering another person to maybe take over a portion of a project that's important, as well, and that, again, is not necessarily being at the front, but in some ways pushing maybe someone else into that leadership position.
ERICA DAWSON: Leading from behind-- absolutely, absolutely.
LANCE COLLINS: So tell me a little bit about what you think are the challenges for the program as it moves forward in the future.
ERICA DAWSON: I think our nearest term challenge is scaling up. So [? Werner ?] and I comprise 1.8 people, basically, our FTEs. And what we're finding, happily, is that there's just huge demand for this. There really is a hunger in our community for what we're offering. And so I think our biggest challenge now is, how can we stay true to our goal of serving all of our students with the limited resources that we have?
So we're having to get creative. And I think this is actually a good thing. You're talking about delegating. We're thinking about ways to bring in people like peer advisors, that we can work with, who can then take this out to some other classes and share their experiences and their knowledge.
LANCE COLLINS: So by peer, you're saying that you would train students that in some ways could be then working with other students to propagate this knowledge beyond just what you're able to do individually?
ERICA DAWSON: Precisely.
LANCE COLLINS: Is that the idea? OK.
ERICA DAWSON: And I think that achieves two goals. First, it helps us to have a bigger reach with the resources that we have. It's also a fabulous experience for those student leaders. To get out there and actually share their knowledge and take a leadership position on our campus, I think, is a tremendous experience.
LANCE COLLINS: So I have one final question, which is-- of the prepared questions here. I mean, so I'd like you to think about where you see the program, not in a week or a month, but maybe, say, three years or five years from now. Where do you see it going? And without any boundaries, what do you think is the potential for the program?
ERICA DAWSON: In the nearer term, maybe three years, what I really want to see are some of our pet projects now firmly established. So I'm very excited about the certificate program that we'll be rolling out. That will be-- starting in the fall, we'll be recruiting for that. We'll launch our first class in January. And I think three years out, what I hope to see from that is that we have a critical mass, a very strong community of students who have been through this program.
LANCE COLLINS: So can you say a little bit about that certificate program, like, what's required, and who is eligible [INAUDIBLE]?
ERICA DAWSON: Sure. We're really hoping to get. It's by application. We're really hoping to get applications from a lot of different majors and backgrounds. And particularly, I want to emphasize it's not for people who already have leadership positions necessarily. So I'm really interested in reaching that person who has a lot of potential, but maybe doesn't see herself as a leader. I think that's where we can have huge impact. So we have some recruitment strategies to help reach that population. It will be--
LANCE COLLINS: Is there any particular year? Like is it freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior, or is it all years?
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, I mean, we're open to all years. I think, practically speaking, we're looking at sophomores and juniors-- so people who will be second semester sophomores and juniors in January, largely because first year is-- there's a lot of stuff going on the first year. It's--
LANCE COLLINS: I agree.
ERICA DAWSON: --yeah, very intense.
LANCE COLLINS: So if you don't mind, I wonder if, just as you have a little bit more experience at Cornell, and maybe circumstances that have come up in your life, that it provides more context for the certificate program, that, at some level, part of what you have to understand in order to appreciate the program would be the challenge of being in a leadership role. So in some ways, maybe sophomores and juniors have had some experience that would be helpful for them.
ERICA DAWSON: I think that's exactly right, yeah. They've got the real-world experience to hang this on. [? It's excellent. ?]
LANCE COLLINS: So we've got the certificate program. Are there other bigger aspirations--
ERICA DAWSON: Yes.
LANCE COLLINS: --in your mind?
ERICA DAWSON: I really want--
LANCE COLLINS: You're talking to the dean right now.
ERICA DAWSON: I know, believe me. I really want to see this get huge. And by huge, I mean I want leadership to be in the fabric of what we're doing at Cornell Engineering-- not a standalone program that some people get and some don't. I really think the concepts that we're talking about define the kinds of students that we're trying to graduate.
LANCE COLLINS: That's right.
ERICA DAWSON: And so they can interact with the program in a lot of different ways. But my goal is to have this be part of what it is to major in engineering at Cornell. I have visions of having our own space, where we could do experiments with teams. It could be a very welcome place for, say, project teams and student organizations to come in and get some consulting, get some individualized team-building and training.
I really want to see us as a center and a resource for faculty. So already, there are faculty who are saying, I'd love to do this in my class. What resources do you have? So I would like to see us as a resource, a center, of leadership in and of ourselves, and also see this conversation expanded across our campus.
LANCE COLLINS: It seems like there's a tremendous amount of potential. And for those of you out in the audience who have heard me talk about this in the past will know that I'm very passionate about how, in our education system, that we'd not just focus on technical education, but that we think about ways in which we add these other skills-- that I hate to call them soft skills, because they're not soft. They're not easy, but they're incredibly important, and in some ways, really define the career trajectory as much as your technical abilities. So I'm delighted to have heard from you.
So I think, at this point, we can turn to Heather and questions that may be coming up.
HEATHER: Absolutely. Yes, thank you both so much. If you have any questions that you would like to ask on the phone, please go ahead and click on the hand icon on the right-hand side of your screen, and I will unmute your line so that you can ask your question live. Likewise, by all means, feel free to type your question into the chat box, and I will ask your question for you.
We did have a couple of questions come in there while you were presenting. And one of them was, is this or a similar program offered at other universities across the United States, that you know of?
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, we're kind of on the leading edge of what I think is going to become a very big thing. So there are other engineering colleges that are offering their own version of this program. I know that MIT has one of the biggest and oldest, I think, leadership, engineering leadership programs. And by old, we're talking five to seven years. So it's a fairly new thing. UC San Diego has one, SMU, Pittsburgh-- the University of Pittsburgh, I think, has one. So there are a lot of them-- sorry, Pennsylvania-- there are a lot of them spread out. And I think, again, this is going to grow into a critical mass.
We've actually started interacting with people from those schools on a regular basis to share best practices, to understand the differences in the programs. There's actually a big range in terms of what those look like.
LANCE COLLINS: In fact, there may be a way we might try to organize the groups, the leaders of these programs, the directors of these programs, into a group that would be periodically, once a year or so, to share notes and exchange stories.
ERICA DAWSON: Betsy [? East ?] lives in fear that I'm going to stick my hand in the air and volunteer to do exactly that.
LANCE COLLINS: I see. That sounds like a good idea to me. Good. Yeah, so if I could [? give ?] just one additional comment that it's interesting that it's new, and it's happening right now-- or, in a sense, a question-- how about in other disciplines, though? In other disciplines, is it maybe there's a longer history, and it's only engineering that is now wanting to have this kind of training going on with the students? I'm curious.
ERICA DAWSON: That's a great question. Obviously, MBA programs have a big dose of this, right? But when you look at the liberal arts-- I can speak as somebody who went into a faculty position right out of my PhD program-- there's virtually nothing. You're really left to figure this stuff out on your own. And I just have a lot of problems with that approach. I think it disadvantages people unnecessarily. When we say that these leadership skills and practices can be learned, to just throw people out there to sink or swim, I think, is unfair.
LANCE COLLINS: That's right. So that's great. Heather?
HEATHER: Great. Thank you. I see we do have a question on the line from Tom [? Tishhauser. ?] Tom, go right ahead.
TOM: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Heather, and thank you, Dean Collins and Erica, for doing this. As an alum from many years ago, this is very valuable. Briefly, I had the privilege of talking to Erica earlier this week, and because I was very interested in this. And my question is, as a former corporate executive, and now, actually, starting a firm to do just this for senior executives who have, quote, "missed" these principles, it's very exciting to see you putting the seeds in right from the start.
Basically, as I told Erica, I'm dealing with the leakage. You're going to fix and the root cause, and we can take it from there. So my question is, what is the role of-- or what would you like us to do, as alumni, to support you, those of us that have the privilege of being in, perhaps, senior executive roles or in corporate right now? How can we help you? And maybe that's a question as the program matures. But any thoughts on how we can help make this successful? Because, obviously, resources are scarce.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, thanks, Tom. Good to hear from you. I think that you're right. I think the answer to that question will evolve over time as the program evolves. But there are ways to be involved right now. So I've already benefited from lots of conversations with alum like yourself about what it is we should be teaching. So it's been really helpful to me. I mean, my background is not engineering. So it's been very helpful to me to talk to alum about the challenges that they faced when they first left Cornell and the challenges that they faced as their careers progressed. Those are different sets of challenges. And it's been very enlightening just to hear the perspective of alum from different fields.
LANCE COLLINS: And the challenges that may occur when you become dean of engineering, for example.
ERICA DAWSON: Yes, as an example.
LANCE COLLINS: But I think Tom's comment about leakage-- we may have to talk offline.
ERICA DAWSON: So just those conversations and some guidance, some input into the content that we're getting at here, I think, has been really useful. I'd also like to start to bring alum in, in a more substantial way. So there are lots of ideas. We have things like potential speakers, either as guest speakers in different classes or as standalone speakers.
So I told the dean just a moment ago, one of our goals is to be a clearinghouse of talent around leadership. And I'm interested in collecting the names and interests of alum who would be willing to come and speak in a class. So that if a professor comes to us, we can provide them with this connection.
We're also having some limited, at this point, engagements with guest speakers just coming as a standalone. For example, we had Jeremy Donovan, one of our alums, come in this semester. He wrote a book called, How To Deliver a TED Talk, and came and talked to our students about the importance of narrative in story in convincing others about your ideas. So there's some engagement there.
And as we wrap up the certificate program, I'm really hoping to draw on alum in industry to interact with our students. So I think that your perspective given directly to the students about what faces them when they leave Cornell is invaluable. And so we'll be looking at ways to make those direct connections with students who are interested. I will also-- sorry--
LANCE COLLINS: Sorry, no, no, I just-- no, no keep going.
ERICA DAWSON: Oh, I was just going to mention that there are lots of other ideas. I'm sure you have some. And we're going to be circulating a survey after this webinar, our I think on Monday. And there's a space there for you to share your ideas about how you might and want to be involved as we move forward.
LANCE COLLINS: Just as you were saying that, it's just a question occurred to me. And that is that you were saying that it's been great to talk with alums, because you're getting a sense of engineering, which is not something that's part of your background. And it made me wonder about, is there something special about leadership in the engineering context that differentiates it from leadership in some other context? Or is leadership really just a fairly general kind of skill that isn't domain specific?
ERICA DAWSON: Yes, they're both.
LANCE COLLINS: OK, yes to both, OK.
ERICA DAWSON: So what I believe is that there are certain foundations of leadership that it doesn't matter about the context. I think you need to know your own values, for example. You need to have a sense of the way that you behave that has the biggest impact on others. You need to be able to give a compelling presentation or communicate a vision in a very exciting way. That's regardless of what you're doing. But I was also hearing from some alums, especially our ones who are fresh out, about some of the challenges particular to engineers. I think engineering, more so than some other fields, really requires the coordination of a lot of different people to get anything done.
LANCE COLLINS: Wow.
ERICA DAWSON: So I'm hearing this over and over again that, wow, I didn't anticipate how much my work is connected to this department's work and that engineer's work, and I have to manage this whole process to be able to move forward.
LANCE COLLINS: So overall success is not just whatever it is that you're doing, or even maybe a tiny group that maybe you're working directly with. But it could be very much impacted, both positively or negatively, by all these other entities that are sitting out there.
ERICA DAWSON: Yes, very interconnected-- and so people really need to have skills to influence others, to motivate them, to negotiate, in ways that, I think, a lot of our new graduates didn't really anticipate.
LANCE COLLINS: Oh, that's very interesting. Great, thanks for the question.
HEATHER: Yes, a similar question came in from David Johnson, who commented that one of the greatest assets that Cornell has are all of the other colleges and degree programs. He's wondering, how can and does the Engineering School leverage those resources outside of the Engineering School to make leadership development robust?
ERICA DAWSON: That's a great question. You know, when I first came back to campus in August, one of the things I set about doing was trying to identify the on campus where students were exposed to leadership content. And it was really hard. It was harder than it ought to be. I think there's a movement around here to fix that. So we're starting to talk more with people from other colleges who have the same interest.
LANCE COLLINS: So you're saying the content is there, but it was pretty hard to find it.
ERICA DAWSON: It's kind of hard to find. And if I can't find it, our students aren't finding it. So part of what we're doing is just making these connections, [? Werner ?] and I, with people from other colleges, and making those opportunities known to our students. We have some natural alliance, obviously, with the Dyson Business Minor for Engineers. There's some leadership content going on there. Students can take that without having anything to do with our standalone program, if they like.
Because of my past work, I also have a lot of ties with the Johnson School. So we're starting to talk there about how we might connect management students and engineering students together in productive ways. We're also collaborating with Cornell Outdoor Ed. They're a great resource on campus, and I think we could probably use them to better effect. So it's a great question.
I think that one thing I believe is that there's no one right way to do this. And a lot of how much we're teaching will resonate with students depends on the match-- our personality match, our approach, and theirs. And so the more that we can make available to them, the better chance we have of them finding a match that can resonate.
LANCE COLLINS: Just to go back to where you started, with the comment that it's hard to find, and so forth-- that tends to be one of our challenges. We're a very distributed campus. Everybody is doing their own thing, and it's often not clear what's out there. And it's difficult. I think, in some sense, entrepreneurship at Cornell was born, in part, to try to solve that problem in that sphere, to say, here's-- as you put it-- the clearinghouse. So here's what's going on, so people can go to this one location and then figure out what's most interesting to them. So maybe something along that line is something to think about.
ERICA DAWSON: Again, we've had these monthly meetings. And I think that just started up last year. And it's been actually very helpful. We don't necessarily have a mandate as a group to do anything, but it allows us to just have conversations with other people doing the same thing we are.
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah, very good.
HEATHER: Thank you. That was a great question. A couple of our participants have noticed that ethics is not one of your four pillars. And they're wondering how you plan to incorporate ethics into leadership instruction.
ERICA DAWSON: So ethics is not one of the four pillars, because I think it pervades all of this. So if you look at what I mean by the four pillars, the insight, the knowing oneself, and the courage, I think those actually speak a lot to the kinds of ethical situations that people will find themselves in. Knowing your own value system, having the courage to stand up for it when nobody is-- that's a lot of what ethics is.
I do want to say, too-- I think you're using ethics in the same way I'm thinking about it-- ethics is more than just following laws. So it's not about knowing what the rules are and being able to adhere to those. To me, it really is a very internal guidance system about how you behave personally and professionally.
This pervades what we do. We begin the conversation with students by talking about, what is your internal value system, and how is that impacting the choices that you're making in your life? I think that's where this conversation has to start. So I also know that, if you teach ethics as a standalone, it doesn't have much of an impact.
I teach negotiation or taught negotiation for a long time. And if I presented a case as being about ethics, everybody would fall in line and say the right thing. I had one case I loved that wasn't apparently about ethics. It was about something else, but it afforded students the opportunity to lie. And when I didn't call it ethics, a lot of students lied. And so you have to, I think, present them with the real situations that aren't labeled ethics and then have them continually test their mettle in those real situations.
LANCE COLLINS: The other aspect of it is that it has to be unclear what's the right outcome.
ERICA DAWSON: Absolutely.
LANCE COLLINS: So what can happen is, if we ask the question, should you or should you not cheat on an exam? Then the right ethical answer is right in front of you.
ERICA DAWSON: Right.
LANCE COLLINS: But what often we face in real life is there are very gray outcomes, and one has to make a determination. And it's very situation specific. So we do also-- I just want to mention, too, we do have our ethics program, the [INAUDIBLE] Ethics Program. And Ron [? Klein ?] has been a leader of that program for a number of years. And so that program provides exposure. Also, it's part of the 1050--
ERICA DAWSON: Yep, and we're starting to coordinate-- we're coordinating with them, as well, on the leadership certificate to get them into working with our students, because they're a very great resource.
LANCE COLLINS: Obviously, very important-- it's a great question. Thanks.
HEATHER: Thank you. Here's a question from Randy Johnson, who asks, what can you do or will you do to help students see themselves as future leaders in the United States, in government, or in industry, inspirational words posted in the hallways, or inspirational lectures? What are your thoughts?
LANCE COLLINS: Hm.
ERICA DAWSON: Hm, multi-faceted answer, I think-- I like the idea of inspirational quotes, but I think it'll take more than that. So people who step into positions of leadership like you're talking-- they're actually making a great sacrifice. It's not necessarily fun to be dean all the time.
LANCE COLLINS: No. Come up with another example.
ERICA DAWSON: I mean, the service-oriented leadership--
LANCE COLLINS: Is the provost on the line? OK, sorry.
ERICA DAWSON: The service-oriented leadership comes with some sacrifice. And so I think that part of what we can do is help students to connect to a reason that they would want to do that, in the first place. So that gets back to talking about values and purpose and having them see themselves as equipped with the skills to reach their purpose in these positions.
I also think there's huge value in just giving them stories to follow. So if they have examples of people who have come before them that they can relate to, who have found their way into these positions of influence or are created that way for themselves, I think the power of one story is incredible in that situation.
LANCE COLLINS: We already, in an earlier conversation, talked about this book Quiet, by Susan Cain. And it talks about how there are all kinds of different types of leaders. And in fact, sometimes we don't always appreciate some that aren't quite as big and charismatic a personality. And I love the idea of stories, because a lot of times, what you really need is to make the connection that I actually am the right person at the right time to step up. And that, again, doesn't necessarily mean that that's because you are the most powerful personality in the room, but it just means you might have a certain piece of knowledge, a certain vision or idea, or whatever it might be.
And oftentimes, it's really-- it's the courage to jump in there and say, wait a second, I think this is what we need to be doing. And that can be a challenge. And in all candor, I think engineers really hold-- they have very high-- they put high standards on what they do. And that can lead to some lack of courage in some ways. Because of their common use of very high standards, they may not see themselves in this way. And so I think this changing the image of what leadership looks like, I think, is really important.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, well put.
HEATHER: Great. Great question. We had another question come in from Nathan. He's wondering how or if you plan to implement the logistical progression from the leadership aspect of the program into a mindset or subprogram with a more entrepreneurial.
ERICA DAWSON: Yes, so it's a question that actually comes up a lot. I mean, there's a lot of overlap, I think, between entrepreneurship and leadership. I see them as a little different, but there is overlap.
I will start out by saying that not all of our students who see themselves as leaders or are interested in our program are necessarily also entrepreneurs, which requires some additional skills. That said, a lot of them will be, and we hope that they will be. One thing I found here is that there is a great entrepreneurial spirit in the college. So I've met some of the students through the project teams and people who have graduated actually and have stuck around, and they're up to some big stuff.
So we're trying to draw those people in, people from the PopShop and other programs who are actually being entrepreneurs now. We've been talking with them about how we can support them in that. Because the other part of entrepreneurship is the economic sustainability of the entrepreneur venture, and that's something that requires some long-term leadership skills.
LANCE COLLINS: One of the great surprises in the course of applying for the Cornell Tech campus was the self discovery about our alumni, that we are incredibly entrepreneurial. We didn't really know that, and we certainly didn't know at the level that we are as a group, that we are extraordinarily so. I would say that these skills certainly promote-- they're not necessarily aligned, but they certainly promote entrepreneurial activity for those students that really have that interest. So I think it definitely is very much a big piece of the support and the piece of advancing that level of activity, which already is innately high and can grow.
And I think it's important. It's just not purely the Cornell reputation piece of that. I mean, I think it's just important as a country that we continue to grow these activities and grow businesses and grow jobs, et cetera. So it's exciting to see this, and I definitely see the benefits that will come to those that have that interest.
HEATHER: Great. Just a comment here from Mike Beller, who is on the Advisory Council for Entrepreneurship, at Cornell. He's really excited about all of this. And he just hopes that you're thinking of ways to coordinate some of your work with the Entrepreneurship at Cornell programs. Another question that came in here is from Dick [? Albright, ?] who's wondering if engineering leadership can be taught in an online format.
LANCE COLLINS: Ooh.
ERICA DAWSON: Ooh, an online format.
LANCE COLLINS: Dick who? Oh, [? Albright. ?] Yeah, I think I have a vague recollection of that individual. So Erica?
ERICA DAWSON: I think the online format is a great support for what we're doing. And we're looking for ways to incorporate things, similar to the TED Talks or Khan Academy, possibly even some larger, more complex lectures. But I really think that the online phase is probably best used for delivering information, delivering content. And that's an important part of what we do. It really also needs to have some experience with it, though, and that's one of our pillars, is people have ability through experience. So we're looking for ways to use some online content maybe to prepare students as they come in to interact and really put this stuff into practice.
LANCE COLLINS: So just along that line, of course, there's a huge, huge both interest within Cornell and outside of Cornell, on the online space, the so-called MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. There's a lot of internal planning around that issue. In some sense, I think part of what I'm most excited about, or, in fact, literally the thing I'm most excited about, is the so-called flipping of the classroom, in which online is used to, as you're saying, deliver material. But then it's supplemented by a classroom experience.
So it's our students. We're not talking about the Massive piece. But it's using technology to supplement so that you can focus more and really focus on, in this case, the experiential elements of it. So perhaps scenarios are set up online, but then the actual role-playing and figuring out of things would happen inside of the classroom. Because I do think there's just so much human interpersonal side to that, that it's hard to imagine doing that exclusively online.
ERICA DAWSON: Yeah, I agree.
HEATHER: It's a great question, though. Thanks so much. I see we do have a question on the line, as well. So I'm going to switch things up a little bit here. Robert Shaw, go ahead on your question.
ROBERT SHAW: Hi, Lance and Erica. This is Bob Shaw. So Erica, a question specifically on the content of what you're trying to communicate to our engineering students s-- it sounded, from what you've said, it was heavily oriented toward project teams. But at the same time, I'm wondering if you've helped to prepare the students for the reality of what they are going to face in the workplace. For example, if they don't go on into academic work, but go into an organization, immediately they're confronted with all the the complex organizational dynamics that are characteristic of most companies, and they will be put in a situation where they are under a leader called their boss.
And there, the dynamic of how to become a leader in the sense of expressing ideas, of providing support to colleagues, and so on, is very dependent on how the boss behaves. And I can say, from my experience and that of my son's, that they often find themselves into organizations where they think the boss is totally incompetent. And that puts a tremendous burden on a young engineer, trying to figure out, how do I succeed in this environment and how do I get a wrap of all these different folks who think about the world differently. And I'm wondering if, in your instructional thing, you help them understand, for example, how people are different in the context of, say, Meyers-Briggs, or any number of other personality indicators?
I mean, one of the things that struck me, when I got out into the world, is I really thought everybody thought just like I did. And that was an engineering mindset, basically, an analytic, and so on. But 90% of the world doesn't think that way, and you're going to be exposed to them. Do they get a chance to understand that kind of context for leadership? And again, there's all kinds of things written by people about organizations and how they function, and so on. Do you help to impart some of that in your training?
ERICA DAWSON: Yes, absolutely. Thanks for the question. So a couple things come to mind. First, with regard to the project teams, that's just one group of students that we're working with. And when I first came last year, it was almost like the low-hanging fruit. Here we have pretty high-functioning teams doing amazing things. And so let's start there.
We're really hoping to expand what we're doing with project teams out. So it's not necessarily that we're here just for the project teams. That was where we started. And more to your point, yes to everything you said.
So one way that I like to think about this is that engineers are taught to get things done within constraints. There's always constraints. Those might be time, money, materials, whatever resources. And the people that you work with need to be considered there. So your boss, even great bosses, impose some constraints on your ability just to show up in an organization and do whatever you want to do.
So we're very cognizant of talking about the practicalities of going into organizations. Part of the insight pillar that I like to talk about-- it's not just insight into the self. It's also insight into others. So we start with the self, and we quickly moved to the idea that, well, those are my values. Other people have different, completely legitimate values. This is how I like to communicate. Other people have very different preferences. And that's part of, I think, advanced insight, is understanding and being able to work with that.
And then we even go so far in the certificate program to tackle this head on with several lessons on power in politics. This is something that's taught to MBA students. There's actually classes called Power in Politics, and it's about how to recognize the power structures in the existing organizations, how to negotiate, how to use different levers of influence. You can't just jump in and demand your way.
So there are, again, are some skills around this that we're very much intending to teach our students. This is exactly what we want for them. When they go out into the organization, they're prepared for this. It doesn't take them by surprise.
LANCE COLLINS: At some level, organizations have a-- the way I think of it, is a personality of their own, so that--
ERICA DAWSON: Absolutely.
LANCE COLLINS: --what you may think about in one company may not work precisely the same way in a different company, that there's some unique elements to each of those. So in some ways, I think there's no way to really completely cover all of it, but it's more of the strategy around figuring it out maybe, and then how to optimize your own approaches relative-- vis-a-vis the organization you happen to be in.
ERICA DAWSON: I'd suggest the word agility for that, to be able to go into a new situation and have a lot of different tools about how to be successful in that group.
LANCE COLLINS: Very good, good question, Bob.
HEATHER: Yes, thank you. We're about out of time, so I'm going to do one last question that came in the chat window. Please-- there are several questions here that I know we didn't get to. I'm, going to compile those and we will share the responses with all of you within the next couple of weeks with the recording. If you have any additional questions that you didn't already type into the chat box, there is a space on the survey that you'll be directed to immediately after this webinar, that you can just enter your questions in there. And we will respond to those in a couple of weeks, as well.
So our final question for the day is from [? Alan ?] [? Flaherty, ?] who asks, where does the leadership program fit administratively within the college? And what is the outlook for shared leadership development activities across multiple Cornell colleges?
LANCE COLLINS: So I guess I can start with saying, so we're running it out of Carpenter Hall, I think. Administratively, it's falling under Student Services, I believe. But to your point, I think the question of whether that's its final home and resting place-- I think we are very much at the beginning of the journey, as opposed to the end. And so there's a lot of unknown as we move the program forward.
And then also, to your point about how this could interface or interact with other units on the campus, I mean, again, it's just we're too focused on getting things off the ground to really have done a lot of cycles on that question. But it's inevitable that we are going to want to be both leveraging the other activities that are going on out there, as well as contributing to an overall environment at Cornell. I mean, I don't think of this-- there is an aspect of our students that I definitely recognize. They have a high aptitude on the leadership meter, whatever that is.
But I don't, by any means, think that's just College of Engineering. That really is across the whole campus. And again, there is just this discovery about all the things we did, in terms of being entrepreneurial, and it's every bit as entrepreneurial as any other school in the country. But that's just one of one aspect of it. I think it comes in many, many different forms. And certainly, there really is something bigger that could happen. But just at this point, we just really haven't had a chance to give that a lot of thought. And Erica, I don't know. I don't know if you--
ERICA DAWSON: I agree. I think this stuff is too good to keep to ourselves entirely.
LANCE COLLINS: Yeah, we shouldn't hoard it. We're going to share. Great, great.
HEATHER: Thank you for the question, [? Alan. ?] And thank you, Erica and Dean Collins, for this update--
LANCE COLLINS: Thank you.
ERICA DAWSON: Thanks.
HEATHER: --and sharing this great opportunity with all of us. Thank you also to, of course, each and every one of the Cornellians' parents--
LANCE COLLINS: Thanks for doing it.
HEATHER: --and friends who participated. We really appreciate your feedback. So again, please give it to us in the followup surveys that you'll receive right after this event and again on Monday, particular to the program. That concludes today's program. Thanks again for participating.
LANCE COLLINS: Thank you.
ERICA DAWSON: Thanks.
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The program's first year was a huge success. Director Erica Dawson PhD '04 and Lance Collins, Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, share information about the program's inception and plans for the future.