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The Engineering Leadership Program – EGR 490

The Engineering Leadership Program instructed by Dean Buchheit, and its associated course, EGR 490, offer unique opportunities to meet personally with individuals whose responsibilities impact engineering in Kentucky and beyond. These leaders have taken time out of their personal schedules not only to serve as guest speakers, but also to attend dinners for the class, offering an added opportunity to interact with and learn from them. Our speakers are asked to share their knowledge and experience, including how they arrived in positions of leadership and how they view their roles as leaders. They will also provide insight into their personal leadership philosophy, and how it has been shaped by the field in which they work. Students will learn from the leaders' experiences – successes, mistakes, crisis situations, and their responsibility to the community as leaders of their organizations. Additionally, we ask speakers if they adhere to particular academic theories about leadership.

Our goal is that as a student participant, you will gain insight into your own style of leadership by listening to the experiences of accomplished leaders. We encourage you to take note of their advice and apply it to your own leadership roles. Of course, no two leaders are exactly alike. You may find that some practices work better than others. It is through a process of trial and error that many of us find our leadership style. Once you are able to clearly understand your personal style and articulate it, you will become a more effective leader. This vision of what you intend to achieve and how you plan to achieve it will become clearer. In sum, this course should enable you to more successfully move a team, an organization, a residential unit and/or a company toward the completion of its mission and goals.

Since its first graduate in 1890, the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky has established a well-earned reputation for leadership through the professional success of its graduates. Many College of Engineering graduates have enjoyed success as leaders in private corporations, military service, elected positions and community organizations.

Each year, through election to its Hall of Distinction, the College recognizes a small number of the more than 22,000 individuals who have received degrees at either the undergraduate or graduate level. 

To help its current students succeed in leadership positions at the university and after their graduation, the College of Engineering has launched a new leadership program for upper-division undergraduate students with engineering standing. The centerpiece of the program is the course Engineering Leadership (EGR 490), which is taught each spring semester. Dean Rudy Buchheit is the instructor of the class.

The cost of all class materials, evening dinners with invited speakers and the trip to Washington, D.C. are covered by the College of Engineering Dean's Office. There is still an engineering course fee and tuition.

During the spring semester, students will participate in a trip to Washington, D.C. (March 12 – 16, 2022) to meet with government, corporate and academic leaders to hear about their leadership style and what they value about serving their communities.

The College of Engineering will observe the CDC guidelines and the University of Kentucky’s travel policy as it relates to Covid-19.

“Countless leaders have graduated from the UK College of Engineering. Many distinguished alumni have succeeded as owners of major corporations, project engineers, medical professionals, government leaders, corporate vice-presidents, leaders in academia and more. Each class will have the opportunity to spend time with the distinguished alumni during class lectures and dinner to understand the value and importance of solid leadership skills. Previous guest speakers have included:

  • Ms. Billie Sue Chafins, Vice President, Software Development at Hulu, B.S. and M.S. Computer Science
  • Mr. Twyman Clements, Co-Founder and CEO of Space Tango, B.S. and M.S. Mechanical Engineering
  • Ms. Joan Coleman, President of Coleman Consulting, B.S. Electrical Engineering and M.S. in Public and Private Management
  • Ms. Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, Senior VP for government strategy and policy at Inmarsat, Inc., B.S. Electrical Engineering, graduate studies in Engineering Management, graduate of the Space Institute Experimental Flight Test Program, DoD’s Acquisition Management Program, and the Cambridge Senior Executive Leadership Program
  • Dr. F. Joseph Halcomb III, Private Equity Investor and Founder & CEO of Phoenix Initiãre, B.S. and M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Doctor of Medicine degree
  • Dean Emeritus Thomas Lester, Dean of the UK COE for 22 years, B.S., M.S., and PhD in Mechanical Engineering
  • Dr. Rebecca Liebert, Executive VP PPG, B.S., M.S., and PhD Chemical Engineering, M.B.A.
  • Mr. Stephen Macadam, Retired CEO of EnPro Industries, Inc., B.S. Mechanical Engineering, M.S. in Finance, M.B.A
  • Ms. Taunya A. Phillips, Director, Office of Technology Commercialization at UK, B.S. Chemical Engineering, M.B.A. 
  • Mr. Eric Ringer, Co-Founder and Director of Aviation Technology at Skyward, A Verizon Company, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, M.B.A.
  • Former President of UK, Dr. Lee T. Todd Jr, B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. Electrical Engineering

EGR 490, which is taught each spring semester by Dean Rudy Buchheit, seeks to develop a student’s personal leadership philosophy through a series of strategies. These include:

  • introducing students to the concept of leadership and helping them understand the differences between leadership and management as discussed by authors in selected readings
  • enabling students to meet with leaders whose responsibilities impact the role of engineering in modern life through class discussions and evening small group discussion sessions
  • arranging for students to meet with government, corporate and academic leaders
  • asking students to consider which leadership strategies might work best for them in their roles as leaders of student professional organizations, honor societies, or as leaders in their community activities
  • equipping students with necessary communication skills that will facilitate articulation of their personal philosophy of leadership to those that choose to follow them and to those who select them for leadership positions.


Rudy Buchheit
Phone: 859-257-1687


To introduce students to the principles of leadership, common strategies used by leaders (effective and ineffective), and the communication techniques that are vital to becoming a dynamic leader.


All students enrolled in this course must have engineering standing as well as senior standing. Any student enrolled in EGR 490 understands that he or she has a commitment to the course and the extracurricular activities associated with its offering. Enrolled students must remain active in the course for its entire duration and participate in activities as directed to receive recognition.


The course is graded Pass/Fail (P/F). Grades will be based upon satisfactory participation in class and on the capstone trip.


Students enrolled in the course are expected to attend all classes and to participate in all events. Excused absences consist of written notification via e-mail 48 hours prior to the meeting. An unexcused absence consists of either non-notification that a student will miss a class period or notification after 48 hours. In the case of notification after the 48-hour mark, the instructor will use his discretion on whether or not to count the absence as unexcused. This absence may be counted as excused if it is due to an emergency or other unforeseen change in a student’s academic schedule. An unexcused absence equals two excused absences.

How to apply

During phase I of the selection process students are invited to submit a cover letter and resume as a pdf file to robyn.morefield@uky.edu by Friday, October 29, 2021.  Late submission will not be accepted. UK College of Engineering department chairs may also nominate student candidates by providing the students' resume and cover letter.  When submitting information please indicate “EGR 490 Leadership Application – Last Name, First Name” in the email subject line. Phase II will include a personal interview scheduled for Friday, November 12, 2021. These interviews will be arranged after the phase I review of cover letters and resumes by the selection committee.