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The Importance of a Business Program for Engineering Majors

The Integrated Business Practices Program is a way for students to add a background of business ideas to an engineering degree.  Listed are former student comments about unforeseen benefits to having these classes as part of their undergrad curriculum.

The Integrated Engineering and Business Practices Program gives students what they term "a competitive advantage." Whether learning how business operates, understanding leadership principles or developing better public speaking and presentation skills, students in these courses have been very vocal and very excited about their experiences. "I took the first course in the first semester of my junior year," says Nikolas Larsen, a chemical engineering major, "and enrolled in the second course as a senior." In recent years more than half of the University's engineering graduates have taken the fundamentals course. Like Larsen, many of the students who took the first course enrolled in the second. 

Why? According the Larsen and Shana Blair, a student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, the courses provide management concepts, knowledge, and skills not typically introduced in undergraduate engineering curricula. "I have always believed that an engineer wishing to end up in a management position should have some kind of background in business," says Blair. "These courses helped me become more confident in myself and in my understanding of business practices so that I can offer extremely competitive technical and business skills to a company. ... I can be a more valuable asset to my company."

"Truly, the only consistent factor in my work from day to day is that your class has been invaluable.  So far, perhaps the greatest tool I have brought with me is simply a general awareness of various business tools.  This is because, at least in my plant, I find that Lean and Six Sigma and their counterparts are attempted, but not very well understood or implemented.  And, although I have very much still to learn about them, it has helped me tremendously to come in with my own basic understanding of these ideas, and not to try to piece things together from everyone else's confusion.  Also, another very basic but critical tool to me so far has been the time we spent giving presentations.  Sometimes in meetings, especially with other new engineers, there is a reluctance to be the first to speak up, ask a question, or address a group.  Being the first one to speak has helped establish me as a contributor and allows me to focus attention on my projects.  A great deal of the confidence to do that is from simply being in front of our business class so many times."
-Liesa Bednar

"Sometimes it amazes me how much of what I learned in your class has been relevant in my current job."

"You once said that your classes will prepare us to have a level of business acumen above that of other graduating engineers and I have definitely found that to be true...  students that take your class will have a much higher level of business acumen than other graduating engineers not only at Notre Dame, but across the country as I have found."

"In my building design course here at Princeton, I recently delivered a presentation with my group on the progress of our project.  We were definitely the best prepared of all the groups - I found that putting a quality presentation together is much easier than it was a year ago."
- Princeton Graduate student

 “The business class you both taught this past spring has already paid off during my first 6 weeks on the job.  In 6 weeks, I have already given two presentations to the Director of International Project Execution.  Thanks to the experience gained from your class, I was able to really impress her.  She decided to use my presentation at the Quarterly Review Meeting this past week, where all of the executives meet with all of the executives from the China customer.”  

“I finished my second day working for GE Transportation today and am loving it! I just wanted to thank you guys for everything you taught us this past year at ND because it truly was one of the most valuable set of courses I will ever take. I got Locomotive certified today to be working on my project and some of the documents were going over risk management stuff that we had covered in class about multiplying likelihood and severity. Also, in the lunch meeting I saw the Red, Yellow, Green method applied to a couple platforms for one of the big projects. Its really amazing to see the stuff that you guys taught us and their applications in the real world”

“Gave my first relatively large presentation at work today and received some great compliments from a lot of people. Much of that goes back to your classes, so I wanted to thank you guys again. You'll be glad to know I remembered a lot of the powerpoint and delivery tips. Goes a long way.”

“Just wanted to let you know that Amy Porter and I just gave a final presentation for our chemical engineering lab and afterwards, one of the professors in attendance approached us to tell us that he was really impressed with our presenting skills. He said that he loved how clean and easy to follow our slides were, how well the presentation flowed, and how comfortable and well-practiced we seemed. He asked if we had done a lot of presenting in the past, so we told him that we learned it all from your class!”“Just before Memorial weekend, I met with a family friend who worked at Deloitte Consulting to gain an insight into the consulting practice. As we started to speak about my business ideas/experience, many of the final projects presented in class came up--from the Blackstone/PE presentation to my own discussion of Globalization. We even discussed Jack Welch's time and implementations at GE, talking about these values being replicated in many companies today (who knew.. the GE Case Study assisted me later in life). Throughout the conversation, I realized just how much the class helped give me a foundation and basis for business knowledge I otherwise would have been without.”

 “I just starting working at Xerox and found out I will be training to get my green belt in lean six sigma! Everyone was shocked to hear that I knew what that was and had learned about it in college.”

 “I am finishing up my Design for Six Sigma green belt training this week, I should be certified next Friday and your classes have been very helpful in giving me an edge over some of the other new hires in the program. I have been in the project engineer role for this effort, in charge of running the meetings, organizing the effort, making decisions, and communicating our findings to the higher-ups. The material that we covered in class has been very helpful, I do feel like I have an edge in the workplace because of my understanding of the business as a whole. Also, as the only one on the team with any business experience, I am in charge of all of the cost-benefit analyses that we are doing.”