Site icon Modish Project

The Enterprise Program At Michigan Technological University: A Professional Development Curriculum In Action

In 2000, Michigan Tech introduced The Enterprise Program (www.enterprise.mtu.edu), an innovative and integrated learning experience that offers all students on campus, but especially engineering majors, an opportunity to learn through the process of starting and operating their own businesses. Students participate in this program by pursuing either a twelve-credit Enterprise Concentration, or a twenty-credit Enterprise Minor. The Enterprise curriculum requires students complete a series of project courses that represent their roles/assignments as members of their enterprise. In addition, students take a number of professional development courses that were created specifically for the Enterprise Program and cover topics such as Teaming, Communications, Leadership, Project Management, Ethics, Economics, Entrepreneurship and Finance. Each professional development course is equivalent to one-semester credit or 14 contact hours of instruction, hence, these courses are very concentrated in their subject matter, providing students with the most critical information and instruction in order to enable them to employ their new-found knowledge directly in the operation of the enterprise. The philosophy behind this approach is that students will better master the subject matter through its immediate application in their enterprise project work and that further development and understanding of the material will come through both student interest and enterprise needs. This paper will discuss teaching methodologies, course curricula, and techniques used in the delivery of these professional development courses, as well as assessment and student feedback. Successes and challenges associated with this unique component of the Enterprise Program will also be discussed. I. Enterprise Program Background In the fall of 2000, Michigan Tech University introduced a new and innovative undergraduate educational experience that provides students of all disciplines on campus, but especially engineering majors, an opportunity to start and operate their own “virtual” business. Within engineering programs the philosophy behind the Enterprise Program is to provide a flexible curricular structure that leads to a traditional engineering degree while at the same time enabling students to participate in the operation of a real enterprise over multiple years. P ge 10284.1 “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education” The Enterprise Program includes an extensive multi-year, multi-disciplinary design experience. Within this option the college/university establishes a number of engineering/business entities, called enterprises, and students choose to join an enterprise and work with other students and faculty to make it a successful venture. Each Enterprise, for the most part, operates much like a real company in the private sector. The employees (students) solve real-world problems, perform testing and analyses, make recommendations, build prototypes, manufacture parts, stay within budgets (real and imaginary), and manage multiple projects. The objectives of the Enterprise Program are to: • provide opportunities for students and faculty to develop entrepreneurial and innovative engineering skills, • provide students with a multi-disciplinary design experience that involves other baccalaureate programs, such as Business and the Basic Sciences, • provide a framework for faculty to mentor students in a learning setting that closely resembles an industrial or professional environment, • include learning activities that arise from the approaches used to solve real-world problems provided by industrial and/or professional sponsors, • utilize the students’ fundamental background in science and engineering in problems where non-technical issues (i.e. cost or societal impacts) are of equal importance, • enable students to participate in leadership activities that coincide with the stages of their professional development. The genesis of the Enterprise Program at MTU was a direct result of industrial assessment of engineering degree programs across the nation which indicates that technical competence is seldom an issue with industry as it is typically considered a ‘given’ for ABET accredited engineering programs. However, several other personal and professional attributes are consistently identified as critical to the success of an engineer, but generally lacking in new engineering graduates, including: • strong skills in communication and persuasion • ability to lead and work effectively as a member of a team • sound understanding of non-technical forces that affect engineering decisions • awareness of global markets and competition • demonstrated management skills and a strong business sense Many of these skills and expertise are not easily taught within a traditional classroom setting. In fact most, if not all, of these abilities are best developed in practice. With the Enterprise Program, MTU has created a new and different experience designed to educate and prepare graduating engineers for more productive and successful careers. The Enterprise Curriculum is offered as a 20-credit minor or a 12-credit concentration, typically completed over two to threeyears. The curriculum is two-pronged and consists of 1) participation in the operation of a business (project work) and 2) completion of concentrated course material (professional development workshops) designed to provide key information, processes and skills required for effective management of a viable business. P ge 10284.2 “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education” Of the required semester credits, 6-7 credits result from working on real-world projects, i.e. operating the company. Each enterprise is required to address and complete at least one major project/product per year, although multiple projects are encouraged when appropriate and available. Consequently, each student participates in a minimum of three different projects during their tenure in the enterprise. Their tasks and responsibilities on each of the projects are many and varied, since over the three year period they contribute to the projects in different ways due to changing levels of technical expertise, maturity and seniority. II. Professional Development Workshops The remaining credits in both the Enterprise minor and concentration paths result from the student involvement in structured mini-courses or professional development workshops, some of which are required and others elective. Each workshop is equivalent to one semester credit or 14 contact hours of instruction and is therefore very concentrated in subject matter, providing students with only the most critical information and instruction to enable them to employ their new-found knowledge directly in the operation of the enterprise. The philosophy behind this approach is that students will better master the subject matter through its immediate application and that further development and understanding of the material will come through both student interest and company needs. Table I provides a listing of professional development workshops currently available to enterprise students. Table I – Enterprise Professional Development Courses Requirements Course # Course Name Credits Minimum 2 Credits ENG2961 Teaming in the Enterprise 2 ENG2962 Communication Contexts 1 ENG3962 Communication Strategies 1 Minimum 2 Credits ENG4952 Complex Communication Strategies 1 EC3401/2/3 Economic Decision Analysis 1-3 ENG3954 Enterprise Market Principles 1 ENG3961 Enterprise Strategic Leadership 1 ENG3963 Enterprise Entrepreneurship 1 ENG3964 Enterprise Project Management 1 ENG3971 Seven Habits of Highly Effective People 1 ENG4951 Budgeting and Finance for the Engineer 1 Minimum 5 Credits ENG4954 Global Competition 1 ENG3955 Conceptual Design/Problem Solving 1 ENG3956 Industrial Health and Safety 1 ENG3957 Product and Process Development I 1 ENG3958 Engineering Ethics 1 ENG3966 Design for Manufacturing 1 ENG3967 Product and Process Development II 1 ENG3969 Project Phases of Design and Implementation 1 ENG3972 Electronic Circuit Design and Fabrication 1 ENG3973 Geohydrological Techniques 1 Remaining credits needed to fulfill minor from any of the above or this list ENG3974 Fuel Cell Fundamentals 1 P ge 10284.3 “Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education” The initial set of workshops offered through the Enterprise Program were developed with support from the originating NSF Action Agenda grant. During the development phase of the overall Enterprise Program, proposals for workshops of topics related to the program goals were solicited from faculty across campus. A subset of workshop topics were selected by committee and funds were then provided to the submitting faculty member to develop the course materials and deliver the first offered session. Workshops are typically designated as either a fall or a spring offering, to allow for a balanced list of options to the students. They are typically taught on an overload basis, and therefore, faculty are provided compensation in the form of incentive funds for each workshop taught. Workshops are generally delivered by a faculty member from the related department or college who has a teaching/research interest in the associated topic. Instructors choose the delivery format for their respective courses as best fits the nature of the topic. The underlying intent is to deliver the course in a format similar to that experienced by professionals attending a continuing education or professional development seminar in industry. For example, some modules are taught in a very intensive weekend session followed by team projec 

Exit mobile version