Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Engineering


Steven R. Harper


Madison Engineering is a unique young program that does not follow the traditional teachings of engineering education. The following study analyzes the output variable of academic success of the Madison Engineering program in relation to the culture of the program and the leadership styles of those in management positions within the department. Eight comparative schools were selected, analyzed, and surveyed to compare to Madison Engineering and cross-examine how different leadership styles affect certain outputs.

From extensive research and benchmarking, data was collected to compare measures of leadership and culture to output variables of academic success. A survey was further conducted of the selected universities to gather complete data for accurate comparison. The U.S. News and World Report rankings of desired engineering programs was used as an output variable of academic success as well as many other variables in relation to the program, faculty, students, and additional factors.

The goal of this project was to understand relationship between a programs’ culture and academic success, and leadership and academic success, and describe how they affect and relate to engineering higher education. With proper analysis and further understanding of these factors, management of Madison Engineering will be able to use these findings to identify strengths and weaknesses, areas of improvement, and areas of strength to emphasize. Ideally, this project below will help grow the Madison Engineering program and advance academic success for future generations to come.


The purpose of this project is to 1) define leadership, culture, and academic success in relation to engineering education, 2) determine the relationship between leadership, culture, and academic success in an educational setting and 3) apply these findings to analyze the James Madison University Department of Engineering.


The objectives of this research project are outlined below.

  • To study departmental organizational leadership in identified comparative universities
  • To determine how to measure success in these engineering departments
  • To determine how to measure leadership in engineering departments
  • To analyze and describe organizational culture within an engineering department
  • To determine how organizational culture relates to success within an engineering department
  • To determine how managerial leadership relates to success within an engineering departmnet

The objective is to study both departments in James Madison University, such as business and engineering departments as well as external departments at peer institutions and comparative schools through surveys, interviews and data analysis of leadership, culture and demographics. The goal is to use this analysis and understanding to develop suggestions for improvement and enhancement of the James Madison University Department of Engineering.


Extensive research into types of leadership, culture and the definition of academic success helped outline the starting point and understanding of appropriate methods and previous knowledge. Using the comparative schools identified, data collection and analysis was performed from literature review, research and readily available data of the identified schools. These results were then cross-examined with an electronic survey conducted on faculty and management at the identified schools. The survey (Appendix I) was conducted and data collected to further analyze these relationships and add to the incomplete data available from research. The survey on leadership and cultural analysis, as well as specific departmental factors, was conducted to the institutional cohort. The results were analyzed using SPSS and visualized with Tableau.


The findings of this study showed that JMU has a similar culture and leadership style to its comparative schools but neither factor is as strong as in the comparative schools. JMU had the highest score for autocratic leadership which has been linked to decrease in U.S. News Ranking, starting salary after graduation, and retention rate. These factors indicate then even though JMU leadership follows the norm of a laissez-faire style, Madison Engineering has areas of concern as it has the most features of a potentially negative impactful style.

The cultural analysis demonstrated that again, JMU follows similar culture as its’ comparative institutions but lacks strength. Compared to the initial test culture, presented by Larson & Grey (Larson & Gray, 2011, pp.79-80), JMU achieved none of the highest scores in any of the 10 dimensions of leadership. In fact, it contained two of the worst scores for risk tolerance and reward criteria, meaning that in these two categories JMU culture was the furthest from the ideal compared to all peer institutions.

The findings discovered many preliminary correlations and areas of interest but none that could provide or create strong correlations and verify findings. In conclusion, this study provides preliminary analysis and results and provides a basis for further analysis to be performed in order to achieve any sort of relationship between variables of leadership and culture in relation to measurements of academic success.



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