Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management has solidified its commitment to evolve with industry needs by launching new undergraduate majors, most notably the Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) BS degree program.
The program was created to prepare students to tackle industries’ largest issues, from clean energy to pandemic disease response, says David Hummels, Krannert’s Dr. Samuel R. Allen Dean.
Solutions often sit at the intersection of disciplines, he notes.
“When we talk to our industry partners they increasingly are running into challenges that defy conventional solutions,” Hummels says. “They’re looking at problems that span functional boundaries, that require integration of expertise.”
Integration of expertise is particularly crucial in large companies, he says.
“You might have a group of scientists and engineers over here, and they speak a particular language. And then you have a group of people who came up through a management training program over here. They each have critical acumen that’s needed to solve problems, but they struggle to talk to each other.”
IBE will prepare leaders comfortable in many worlds and fluent in many vocabularies. It is a joint program with Purdue’s renowned College of Engineering. In this challenging program, students take first-year engineering courses, followed by a combination of management and engineering classes. The cohort-based program launched in fall 2021 with nearly double the expected number of elite freshmen, 80% from out-of-state.
Applications for next fall are running high, Hummels says, as top incoming students recognize IBE is an extraordinary opportunity to combine two critical disciplines.
“We have IBE seminars that will adapt and adjust based on the current needs and desires of both industry and what the students are interested in, to make sure we’re focusing on those future careers,” says IBE Program Director Ryan Case.
IBE’s unique experiential courses give these undergraduate students the opportunity to work with students and faculty from different majors and disciplines.
“The opportunities we provide students to work with students with different backgrounds, different perspectives, and different cultures create a much richer experience for everyone,” says Matthew Lynall, a clinical professor of management and the director of Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
In the year-long Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course, students are creating engineered solutions for developing countries, from language translation apps to teaching aids to water treatment solutions, Lynall says. He oversees EPICS, instructing the student teams.
IBE students participating in Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) work with research labs across campus on emerging technologies with the goal of moving that tech toward commercialization.
In a case competition his first semester at Krannert, IBE student Gia Bao Tran experienced firsthand the power of merging technical skills and business acumen.
“We had to use our technical skills to understand and analyze the product of a tech company. From there, we used our business knowledge to act as consultants and form a business plan of action by playing to the technical strength of our product,” he says.
Tran says IBE’s blend of business and engineering curriculum is “what is needed in the job market at the moment.”
Student Sam Wadlington says the IBE program has bolstered his internship applications.
“Without IBE and its amazing director Ryan Case, I would definitely not be interning at Rolls- Royce this summer,” Wadlington says. “The unique mix of business and engineering helps me understand things from a technical, engineering perspective while also connecting that to a cost-effective, business mindset.”
Curriculum review and design can’t be adequately carried out in an academic vacuum. When faculty talk mainly to each other about what is relevant to them, to their research and to their discipline, industry needs can be absent from the conversation, Hummels says.
One way to keep industry in the forefront is to rely on accomplished alumni. Situated in some of the best companies in the world, Krannert alums see emerging challenges.
“We have choices that we can make about how we approach things, how we teach things, what subject matter we bring to the table,” Hummels says. “We talk to our alumni so they can help us keep our curriculum relevant. We also bring them into the classroom. There, they don’t talk about mergers and acquisitions in the abstract. There’s an energy, a relevance, that alumni bring to the table.”
Students are motivated by hearing from those who have “lived it,” he says.
Distinguished Krannert alum were integral in the creation of IBE and new, related scholarships. The Julie Wainwright Scholarship for Women Who Make A Difference will award four full-rides to female IBE students each fall, with a preference for students with an entrepreneurial spirit, as befits the career of the founder and CEO of The RealReal, a luxury consignment retailer.
Curriculum stays relevant also thanks to a consistent, meaningful interplay between faculty and industry professionals.
“One of the most interesting interactions that I've seen play out over my time as dean is watching the exchange that occurs between a faculty member who’s thought very, very deeply about a problem for years and someone in industry who is struggling with the application of solutions to that problem,” Hummels says.
This exchange is extremely valuable, he says, because without understanding the deep problem, it’s difficult for industry to move forward. And, without understanding the problems that industry is actually trying to solve, “faculty can wander around in a bit of a wilderness of ideas and theories that are really interesting to other academics, but are not so relevant to the actual practice of business,” Hummels says.
So, Krannert’s faculty and the curriculum they develop and teach stay ahead of industry needs and trends by participating in an important give-and-take.
In one example, Hummels notes the enormous amounts of data businesses collect: on people, behaviors, processes and more. Businesses are looking for ways to create value from that data, but don’t always know how to gain the most meaningful insights.
Nearly every industry today relies on the power of data. The most successful industries of tomorrow will be those that can leverage data to create value.
Purdue University’s Data Mine provides Krannert School of Management students a rich opportunity to interact with data outside the classroom, building upon their coursework and working with companies.
The Data Mine is Purdue’s learning community open to all undergraduate and graduate students from all majors. Participating students are connected by a passion for data science and a desire to be prepared for the data-driven workforce of the 21st century.
Via seminars, a corporate partners program, professional development experiences, competitions and more, the Data Mine advances data science through collaboration, learning, research, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
“We work with companies on real business problems and students come up with data-based solutions as early as in their freshman year,” says Mohammad Rahman, an associate professor of management at Krannert and the faculty lead for the Krannert Data Mine Cohort.
“These are experiences that are invaluable. Even a student graduating and getting a job -- in the first one or two years, they might not get such experience,” he says. “Data Mine gives students opportunities to understand how the whole business works even before they actually become part of the business.”
The robust Data Mine and Krannert’s active, continuous participation in the university-wide learning community illustrate a dedication to anticipating and solving industry needs.
“Our faculty are experts at that problem,” Hummels says. “How is it that I take a business problem, turn it into a data problem and then turn that data problem into a business insight?”
Krannert faculty and the school’s research centers collaborate with industry to harness the full power of data.
“Through those collaborations that engage our faculty and our high-ability students, we keep the curriculum relevant and directly applied to the problems that companies have,” Hummels says. And the school is providing opportunities for its undergraduate students to “show off” for the companies that benefit from Krannert consulting and research projects.
“Ultimately, we’re driving a lot of value also for our faculty, ensuring that their research and the kinds of problems that they’re tackling remain cutting edge and relevant to the world as opposed to relevant to a decades-long academic intramural argument,” Hummels says.