Students Learn from Leaders in ENGR 400

Dozens of professionals present guest lectures for senior-level course

School of Engineering alumni Bart Robinson (left), chief operating officer for the City of Oxford, and Keith Hayward, CEO of North East Mississippi Electric Power Association; and Jeff McManus, director of UM Landscape Services, discuss their professions in an ENGR 400 class. Submitted photo

University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni and industry leaders representing several organizations and agencies shared insights and experiences with students enrolled in the ENGR 400: Leadership and Professionalism class last semester.

Eighty-four final essays submitted by the engineering students in the class captured the influence of the guest speakers. The students frequently quoted several of the speakers in their essays. Author John C. Maxwell’s book “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader — Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow” was used as the textbook.

“It is fascinating to me that comments each guest lecturer made during their presentation resonated with different students in so many different ways,” said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate students in the engineering school.

Kendricks served as an instructor, along with Megan Miller, career specialist, and Cris Surbeck, associate dean and professor of civil engineering.

“Clearly the students largely benefited from this class because of the contribution of these alumni and other speakers, in addition to the Maxwell book on leadership,” Kendricks said. “Each offered encouragement, challenges to improve themselves, wisdom to take with them into the working world and tremendous tips for how to face issues early in their careers.”

The class met for one hour on Friday afternoons in Brevard Hall throughout the fall semester. Topics discussed were military leadership, life as a young alumnus/a, engineering consulting, law, biomedical engineering, international engineering solutions, the oil and gas industry, entrepreneurship, aerospace engineering, research, service and infrastructure.

Many lecturers also hosted business lunch meetings for the students and other follow-up opportunities.

Entities represented included the Armed Services, Toyota, Raytheon, Bastion Technologies, Entergy, the Delta Health Alliance, Neel-Schaffer, Laird and Smithers, Butler Snow, Smith & Nephew, Mississippi Court of Appeals, Medtronic Spine, NSI-MI Technologies, ExxonMobil, Everglades Boats, U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center, Boeing, the City of Oxford and Northeast Mississippi Electric Power Association.

Some of the guest lecturers expressed their gratitude for having been invited.

“While it’s gratifying to know that our efforts brought positive results, as presenters, we also really enjoyed and benefited from these opportunities as well,” said Jimmy Palmer of Butler Snow.

David Dykes, program manager of army operations and modernization for Science Applications International Corp., said he enjoys the opportunity to talk to the students.

“Anytime you would like to put me to work, don’t hesitate to ask,” Dykes told the instructors.

Others participants included Mark Sudduth, Will Dabbs, Mike Jurgensen, Scott Caldwell, Elizabeth Taylor, Colbert Lehr, Steven Stewart, Barrett Green, Karen Matthews, Dallas Baker, Chas Smithers, Jimmy Palmer, Bill Clemmons, Mike Caples, Jim Greenlee, Chris Patterson, Vince Rodriguez, Mike Nash, John Cleveland, Hunter Howell, John Ward, Markeeva Morgan, Jane Smith, Lucy Priddy, Ned Mitchell, Jeff McManus, Keith Hayward and Bart Robinson.

For further information about ENGR 400 speaking opportunities, contact Marni Kendricks at