Science Undergraduates Are Motivated to Undertake Leadership Education to Enhance Employability and Impact

Susie S. Ho, Bob B. M. Wong, Melissa Tham, Rowan H. Brookes

Abstract


Leadership education is increasingly prevalent, with tertiary institutions offering leadership programs in a variety of formats. Leadership curricula are traditionally underrepresented in science, but provide a promising way to develop a range of transferable skills. Moving forward, it is important for educators and curriculum designers to ask why science students should choose to layer their discipline-specific education with leadership education. Our study aimed to identify the key motivations for undergraduates to choose leadership education alongside a traditional science degree. We surveyed 70 undergraduates across the Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science - Advanced Research (Honours) and two emerging science leadership programs (Science Future Leaders and Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges (Honours)) at Monash University, Australia. We also interviewed 13 students, asking open-ended questions about their motivations for undertaking leadership courses and coded responses to identify common themes. All interviewed students indicated that employability was important in their decision-making. Most respondents were motivated to develop transferable skills and broaden their employment options, competitiveness and adaptability in what scholars have described as an uncertain and dynamic workforce. Some respondents also cited a wish to increase their capacity to have a positive impact in society during their careers. Our findings suggest that today’s Australian science students are receptive to broadening their skills, attributes and competencies beyond traditional technical and content-rich discipline training.

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