Everyone wants to be innovative, right? Well, maybe I shouldn’t speak for everyone in the world.  However, there are a number of institutions (schools, universities, think tanks, etc.) that want to make more people more innovative.  What does that really mean, though?  Is it even possible to make people more innovative? To what extent do external factors play a role in an individuals ability to be innovative?  Are there personality traits that are tied to innovativeness which aren’t very malleable?

When we think about the education of future engineers, software designers and developers, and technologists, how good of a job are we doing at creating “innovators”? I say “we” because I have been one of those educators since 2003.  In order to know if we’re doing any good, we need to be able to measure “it”. While we probably can’t appreciably change someone’s personality once they’re in college, we can very likely encourage the development of behaviors and skills that are know to be associated with innovativeness.  Measuring some of those behaviors at the undergraduate level is the crux of my research in engineering education.


Fontenot, Mark E. (2017), An Exploratory Investigation of Innovative Work Behavior. Unpublished Dissertation. SMU, Dallas, TX.

Fontenot, Mark E., Canales, Katherine, Quicksall, Andrew N. “Taking Care of the Team in a First-Year Design Experience Course.” In Proceedings of the 2014 Frontiers in Education Conference, Madrid, Spain., October 2014.

Willis, Betsy F., Willis, David A., Fontenot, Mark E. “Developing Leadership Skills and Creating Community in Engineering Students,” In Proceedings of the 121st American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, June 2014.

Willis, Betsy F., Fontenot, Mark E., Willis, David A. “Towards IDEAL Engineers: Identifying and Developing Engineers as Leaders,” In Proceedings of the 5th Annual First-Year Engineering Experience Conference, August 2013.

Invited Talks

Fontenot, Mark E. Educating Innovators. Invited Presentation at Highland Park Independent School District Teacher Inservice, Jan 2016

Fontenot, Mark E. Educating Innovators: Are We Achieving the Goal? Invited Presentation at SMU Lyle School of Engineering Download, November 2015