December 23, 2009

NSF funds engineering leadership program

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A nearly $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation will build on the early success of an engineering leadership program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The Leadership Development Program in Engineering and Technology will provide scholarships to 29 engineering students transferring from community colleges to SIUC for their junior and senior years. The four-year program will provide scholarships of $9,000 during the junior and senior years of each of the students, whom University officials will select based on their scholarship and leadership potential.

Scholarship recipients will receive leadership training, serve in leadership roles in affiliated student organizations and will have a summer internship opportunity.

The program builds on an effort begun by Dick Blaudow, an SIUC engineering alumnus and CEO of Advanced Technology Services. Blaudow, along with his wife, Brigitte, established the Blaudow/ATS Technical Leadership Program in Manufacturing, which recruited the state's finest manufacturing engineering students and future industry leaders to pursue studies at SIUC's College of Engineering.

The Blaudow program, established in 2006, is aimed at creating future executive leaders in industry by giving them early leadership training. Since its start three years ago, the program has successfully graduated all six of its first-round participants, all of whom also secured fast-track careers, said Bruce DeRuntz, associate professor of technology and principal investigator on the new NSF grant.

The grant means SIUC will select future program participants from the state’s 11 southern-most community college districts, he said.

“These scholarships will remove economic barriers that would prohibit a largely first- generation college student demographic from achieving a professional career, and improve the recruitment, retention, graduation rates, and job placement of these students,” DeRuntz said. “In particular, the project aims to achieve a three-year graduation rate of at least 90 percent and become self-sustaining through corporate sponsors interested in developing a diverse engineering population.”

DeRuntz said the program will consider students’ grades and scholarship, but officials especially are seeking students with demonstrated leadership qualities and strong work ethics.

Community colleges participating in the program include John A. Logan College, Frontier Community College, Kaskaskia College, Lewis and Clark Community College, Lincoln Trail College, Olney Central College, Rend Lake College, Shawnee College, Southeastern Illinois College, Southwester Illinois College and Wabash Valley College.

The new program is the result of DeRuntz’ effort to expand on Blaudow’s gift, said Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, interim dean of the College of Engineering.

“With this support, the college will be able to provide scholarship moneys to additional meritorious students,” he said. “I would like to congratulate Dr. DeRuntz and his collaborators for the successful grant application.”

DeRuntz said his team of co-investigators, Rhonda K. Kowalchuk, assistant professor of educational measurement and statistics, and John W. Nicklow, associate dean of the College of Engineering, brings a perfect mix of skills to the project.

“It is very rewarding to be part of an educational research project that benefits the students, the college and industry in the process,” DeRuntz said. “Everyone has already experience much success from the program and we are still years away from seeing if these young leaders become executive leaders.”

DeRuntz said that this award is a potential springboard for his plans to develop an even larger corporate-sponsored Leadership Development Institute in the future.

For more information, go to or contact DeRuntz at 618/453-7829 or