Technology and Management Program

After several years of planning and development, the joint Commerce and Engineering Technology and Management Program is now a reality. Developed collaboratively by two of the strongest colleges in the university, Commerce and Business Administration and Engineering, the program is designed to cross-train business and engineering undergraduates in each college in the disciplines of the other.

The students' exuberance is caught
by the faculty. This is not just another
class to any of them.
Kent Monroe, co-director

To be successful in today's business environment, engineers must be flexible, understand market forces, and work effectively in cross-cultural teams. Business people must understand the distinctions between organizational and technical limitations and be able to work closely with engineers. Usually this grasp of both sides of an organization comes only after many years on the job. With the new Technology and Management Program, we hope to produce students who have this ability before they enter the work place. That's one of the reasons Leonard Hoeft, with generosity and enthusiasm, has made a $1 million gift to help underwrite start-up costs for the program. "In business today, you are confronted with challenges on all sides," he told InSight. "You have to master technology and understand the economics of a business, budgeting. Straight engineering doesn't provide all the information needed to succeed in business today. The same is true for business study alone. Both areas must be embraced." His own education was in engineering and business. He believes that this joint program will produce the strong leaders today's business requires.

Bringing a new program on-line is very costly. The three courses offered this spring to the 28 students admitted to the new program represent a huge investment of time, money, and knowledge. Much research went into the development of the program. First, focus groups were held; then last summer a pilot-program was successfully tested; the fall was spent developing the first three courses; this semester courses are being developed for introduction next fall.

Students gain entrance to the program only after application and rigorous screening. Professor Porac, one of the architects of this program, can hardly contain his excitement about how well things have begun. "The first-round students are outstanding. Expectations are high!" Although the program was designed for juniors, the first contingent has a number of sophomores. Courses offered this semester are: Marketing of New Products - taught by Marketing Professor Devanathan Sudharshan for engineering students; Organizing for Innovation - taught by Strategy Professor Joseph Porac for students from both colleges; and Technology of Management - taught by Materials Science Professor Jim Adams for business students. Other faculty involved in this program are Yong Se Kim from general engineering, Michael Loui from computer engineering, and Mark Arends from fine arts who teaches industrial design. The co-directors of the program are Tom Conry from Engineering and Kent Monroe from Commerce.

There is a strong emphasis on team projects in this inter-disciplinary program, and each course has a hands-on component. For example, in the marketing course, students working in teams take a new product from the design phase through launch. This includes the generation of ideas, concept development, market concept, and market planning. Professor Sudharshan was especially pleased to observe the changing perceptions of students in the summer pilot of the marketing course. "At the beginning of the course, when the engineers were asked to discuss the benefits of a product, they focused on the technical features that made it superior. But after some weeks, they began to enumerate consumer-based advantages. This is one of the goals of the program, to teach students the importance of integrated thinking about products. `What does my work add to customer value?' If everyone in a company asks that question, the company will change the way it responds to customers and how it competes in the marketplace."

When the program is fully operational, students will take seven Technology and Management courses in addition to a full complement of their major courses. Starting in the junior year, they will take two T&M courses per semester until second semester, senior year. At that time they will take a four-hour capstone course that will require them to use the knowledge and skills acquired in the program thus far. As part of an interdisciplinary team, each student will work on a design project proposed by a corporate partner.

Because real business experience is so important to this program, the directors of the program are working hard to secure summer internships for each student. Eventually, we would like such internships to be an integral part of the program, much as they are in the ongoing Industrial Distribution Management Program.

The Joint Program in Technology and Management has attracted considerable external funding. Leonard C. and Mary Lou Hoeft have committed $1 million for curriculum development and start-up costs. Three corporate sponsors are also providing lead gifts: Procter & Gamble, General Electric, and AT&T have each made three-year commitments of $150,000.

These very generous gifts for program development, make enormous contributions to the growth and well-being of the university. For the university to remain strong, curricula and programs must respond to the changing demands of the global market. But, creating new courses and programs is expensive, frequently prohibitively so, especially in view of the austere budgets the university has received from the state legislature over the last several years. With very little state money available for program development, the dollars received by the Technology and Management Program are more crucial than ever. So, to the donors, current and future generations of students, faculty and administrators say, "Thank you for your support! Thank you for keeping the University of Illinois in the forefront of innovative educational programs."

"The new program is more than meeting expectations of faculty and students alike," co-director Kent Monroe observed. "Enthusiasm is running high. It's wonderful to see how the students' exuberance is caught by the faculty. This is not just another class to any of them." As we continue to create this program, we invite the comments of our alumni and friends. Let us know what kinds of experiences you have had in your business that might benefit our efforts here. As a public university, we are here to serve the needs of the state, nation, and larger world community. Please address comments or requests for additional information to the editor (see address on homepage) or Professor Monroe, Head, Department of Business Administration.


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