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The GEL Program is the
Gordon-MIT Engineering
Leadership Program. It's a one
or two year sequence for
undergraduates at MIT. And
basically the purpose is to
supplement MIT's excellent
technical education by teaching
the leadership skills that are
important when someone goes out
into industry or for that matter
into academia or any
organizational structure where
your success depends not only
on what you know, not only on
what you do with what you know
but how effectively you can
interact with the organization
in order to make things happen.
We feel very strongly that you
can learn about leadership in
classroom, but to effectively
develop your skills at leading
teams, projects, and programs
you should do that immersively
on the playing field and that's
the environment that we've set
up in our Engineering Leadership
Program. When you're a student
working on homework, whether
its a paper or a p-set, you're
getting a lot of theoretical
knowledge and even when you're
working on projects for classes
you're getting a lot of
practical knowledge as well.
But when you get to industry
you first experience working
on a team, on a large-scale
project that needs to be
delivered on time, within budget
and to specification. You're
working with a team: you're
working with people, you're
working for people, and that's
a new experience for a lot of
MIT graduates. MIT students are
very strong technically, but
maybe not so strong when it
comes to communication. So
these skills are something that
are absolutely critical for not
only engineers but people
across the board here at MIT.
And its cool that the GEL
program allows you to gain
these skills so that when we go
out into the field, and into our
jobs or internships, or whatever
we're up to next, we see that
we have the skills to tackle
what we're up against. And
its neat that a program like
this, at MIT, allows you to do
that. Students apply to the
program. They are voluntarily
doing this in addition to their
regular academic curriculum,
so it's an academic overload.
The one-year program is simliar
to a concentration. Participation
in the two-year program is
similar to that of a minor. The
program has its own curriculum.
It consists of four different
academic classes and is also
buoyed by hands-on, immersive
engineering leadership labs; it
is the experiential component
of the program. So in the
Gordon program we take these
students and we put them in
positions where they're actually
leading a group of their fellow
students. From the very first
lab first year students are
assigned to a team. They'll
be a member of that team for
the entire semester. They'll
get opportunities to formally
lead that team. They'll also
get an opportunity to be a
team member to participate in
the stages of team development.
That team will be coached by
a second-year student that will
formally assess the performance
of the first-year students.
And by the end of the program
you'll notice a difference in
how your team works together
and how you are both as a
follower leading from within,
and as the set leader for
your group. In the eight years
we've been doing the program
its been remarkable watching
the emerging leadership and the
development of each student.
From timid, shy, introverted
student when they enter the
program. To confident, take
charge, support the team from
below, capable, effective leader
that is ready for industry.
And year, after year, after year
we get feedback from our
alumni that are saying the very
things they practiced week over
week in GEL are the very things
that are propelling them to
early career success in industry.
I remember when I was in GEL
several times it crossed my
mind, where I was like, "Of
course communication is key.
Of course communication is
vital." You always want to be
in sync with your teammates.
But it didn't really click to me
until I started working full
time. GEL has helped me the
most in a sense of followship
as well as leadership. And the
topic comes up a couple times
in GEL where its leading from
below. There's a lot of times,
definitely starting as an intro
software engineer, where before
I probably would have kinda sat
in front of my computer, pushed
my code and moved on to the
next day. Where now, because
of GEL, I pay a lot more
attention to our system of
organization, how our leaders
are leading as well as what are
some ways I can learn from that
and make myself a better
developer, leader and person
in the work force.
My big thing at MIT has been
impact. How can I make an impact
and leave a legacy here. And GEL
has been my way to do that.
I'm forming and shaping this
program so that years of
students to come can benefit
from it as I have. We have
students in industry who come
back recruiting for their
companies and they specifically
come back recruiting other GEL
students because they and their
company recognize how valuable
the GEL program has been.
MIT has a great motto, which is
actually part of the culture,
"mind and hand", "mens et manus"
combining theoretical knowledge
with he actual practical ability
to use that knowledge in the
world. I like to think that in
the Gordon program we're taking
that even a step further by
talking about: how do you
actually apply that in the world?
What are the issues that it
takes in terms of organizational
skills, teamwork, working
together with other people?
Essentially it's, who's mind?
Who's hand? What kind of a
person actually is the most
effective at taking that
knowledge and taking that
ability to build things and
combining it in order to make
products that make a difference
in the world.