Leadership Development through Design Based Wilderness Education

Christopher R. Saulnier, Benjamin Ahn, Aikaterini Bagiati, John G. Brisson


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been collaborating since 2010 with the Singapore Ministry of Education to help develop the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). One element of this collaboration, the Global Leadership Program (GLP), aims to provide SUTD students with the opportunity to interact with the MIT community and experience MIT’s academic culture. During GLP students participate in a program designed to develop leadership ability while also increasing their understanding of engineering science and design thinking. This paper introduces a curriculum combining the pedagogies of design-based learning and wilderness education that was implemented in the summer of 2014 to holistically address the development of these three competencies. Through design-based learning activities, both for and in a natural environment, students were encouraged to develop competencies in engineering science and engineering design while exploring the diverse attributes essential for success as an engineer. This paper examines the results of a retrospective post-then-pre survey administered to the participants upon completion of the program to explore the effects of the program on the development of professional engineering competencies. We find a statistically significant increase in items associated with Individual Leadership Skill, Group Leadership Skill and the role of Society and the Economy. These results are triangulated with student exit interviews and instructor observations.


Wilderness Education; Design-based Learning; International Collaborations; Cross-cultural Learning

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International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP) – eISSN: 2192-4880
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