What does a stress analysis on a pressure vessel have to do with writing a professional email?
At Michigan State University (MSU), the disparate actions have more in common than you may think.
In fall 2019 and spring 2020, MSU mechanical engineering faculty incorporated the Emerge with Rubin online program, a comprehensive platform that guides students to write effective emails and documents like reports, summaries and strategic plans.
The program also covers phone etiquette and how to hold meaningful face-to-face networking conversations. The communication examples are found inside Wait, How Do I Write This Email? (pictured above), an ebook of 100+ writing/speaking templates provided to each student.
Dr. Ron Averill, MSU associate professor and associate chair for the mechanical engineering undergraduate program, learned of Rubin Education during the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference in Tampa.
Dr. Averill saw an opportunity to supplement MSU mechanical engineering instruction with best practices for communicating with colleagues and clients. That’s how an engineering exercise on pressure vessels doubled as a chance for students to explain their efforts to a supervisor via email (just like in the real world).
What’s more, the Rubin Education material allows MSU to address two relevant ABET student outcomes:
- an ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences
- an ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks, and meet objectives
“Rubin Education strengthens our mechanical engineering program because it provides ready-made instruction to help students explain their work in a clear, organized way,” said Dr. Averill. “This makes it easy to include communications exercises within core engineering courses, providing students with a clear context for their memos and reports while reflecting on their engineering solutions.”
“MSU recognized early on the value of a communication-based curriculum to prepare the next generation of engineers,” said Danny Rubin, founder of Rubin Education. “Students must be equipped with not only a strong math and science background but also the ability and confidence to tell the world what they have achieved.”
In the pressure vessel assignment at MSU, students wrote an email to summarize their findings. First, students showed they know how to address faculty appropriately (ex: Dr. or Professor) and share the nature of the message in the opening line.
Students then learned to write in short sections rather than one large paragraph that can be cumbersome to read.
Lastly, students developed a professional email signature with email, phone and expected graduation date.
Dr. Averill and his team hope to incorporate Rubin Education lessons on report writing later in the semester. The goal, once again, is to underscore how communication skills are a key component of every career path in engineering.
Relevant links and next steps: