For one day last month, 20 stu­dents in the Gordon Engi­neering Lead­er­ship Pro­gram at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity called Camp Edwards, a mil­i­tary base on Cape Cod, their class­room. They climbed ropes, scaled walls and shim­mied across narrow planks sus­pended above water.

Cadets in Reserve Officer Training Corps pro­grams at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in New Eng­land guided the Gordon stu­dents through a series of timed obstacle courses designed to improve their con­fi­dence and lead­er­ship skills in high-​​pressure situations.

The Gordon pro­gram enables stu­dents to earn a master of sci­ence in an engi­neering dis­ci­pline of their choice, such as mechan­ical engi­neering, energy sys­tems or engi­neering man­age­ment, and a grad­uate cer­tifi­cate in engi­neering lead­er­ship. Bernard and Sophia Gordon estab­lished the pro­gram with a $20 mil­lion gift from the Gordon Foundation.

Stu­dents, known as Gordon Fellow can­di­dates, usu­ally enter the inten­sive one-​​year pro­gram via an employer sponsorship.

Team-​​building exer­cises out­side the class­room embody Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to expe­ri­en­tial learning and help stu­dents get to know each other better, learn from each other and build cama­raderie, said Steve Klosterman, pro­fessor and industry rela­tions director of the Gordon Engi­neering Lead­er­ship Program.

He said the same strate­gies apply whether stu­dents are fig­uring out the best way to carry a 50-​​pound box across a pool of water or designing the spec­i­fi­ca­tions for a lamp.

They have to describe a sit­u­a­tion, for­mu­late a plan, explain the plan to their team­mates and figure out how to exe­cute the task suc­cess­fully,” he said, noting the impor­tance of crit­ical thinking and problem-​​solving skills.

Par­tic­i­pating in the field lead­er­ship course taught Gordon Fellow Ben Pinkus sev­eral valu­able lessons for man­aging a team, whether he’s leading his class­mates or his work col­leagues. Pinkus is a sys­tems engi­neer for Raytheon.

You want to be able to pick a posi­tion where you can view the entire problem,” said Pinkus, who “dove right in and tested the waters” as team leader for a par­tic­u­larly chal­lenging course that his group could not com­plete. “It’s impor­tant to del­e­gate to your team­mates and be in a posi­tion to see the end goal.”

The Gordon Fel­lows thought of some of the most inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to their phys­ical chal­lenges, said Eliz­a­beth McNa­mara, a 21-​​year-​​old Army cadet lieu­tenant colonel at Prov­i­dence Col­lege, where she com­mands the Patriot Battalion.

They came up with ideas that I’ve never seen before,” she said. “They were intel­li­gent and approached the chal­lenges in a rational manner.”