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Introducing Flexibility in an Engineering Curriculum Through Student Designed Elective Programs

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Industrial Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.808.1 - 24.808.8



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Paper Authors


William J. Schell IV P.E. Montana State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. William J. Schell holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering – Engineering Management from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and M.S. and B.S. degrees in Industrial and Management Engineering from Montana State University. He is an Assistant Professor of Industrial and Management Engineering at Montana State where his primary research interests are engineering education and the role of leadership and culture in process improvement with a focus on healthcare applications. Prior to his academic career, Dr. Schell spent over a decade in industry where he focused on process improvement and organizational development. This time included roles as VP of Strategy and Development for, VP of Operations Engineering for Wells Fargo Bank, leadership and engineering positions of increasing responsibility with American Express, where his last position was Director of Global Business Transformation for the Commercial Card division, and engineering positions with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center.

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David Claudio Montana State University

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David Claudio is an assistant professor of Industrial Engineering in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. He received his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. He is a Professional Engineer (PE) and is also certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) from The Association for Operations Management (also known as APICS). His research interests include Human Factors, Service Systems, Decision Making, and Healthcare Engineering; in particular strengthening the collaboration between nurses and engineers.

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Durward K. Sobek II Montana State University

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Dr. Sobek is Professor and Program Coordinator of Industrial Engineering at Montana State University. He holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Industrial and Operations Engineering from The University of Michigan, and the A.B. degree in Engineering Science from Dartmouth College.

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Laura Stanley Montana State University - Bozeman


Nicholas Ward Montana State University

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Professor Nicholas Ward (F. Erg. S) obtained his Ph.D. in Human Factors psychology from Queen's University (Canada). He is currently a Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Montana State University and a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Health and Safety Culture at the Western Transportation Institute. Professor Ward has led interdisciplinary and international research consortia to study traffic safety research including intelligent transportation systems, driver behavior (impairment), and traffic safety culture. He is a national leader in the definition and advancement of traffic safety culture as a new traffic safety paradigm.

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Creating Flexibility in an IE Program – What do students want?Calls from industry, non-profits and government consistently encourage engineering programs to create awell-rounded engineer—one who is more than a technical expert, who is positioned to be a successfulleader of industry, government, and the academy. But how can university faculty meet these calls? Whatis meant by a well-rounded engineer? How can engineering programs add the flexibility needed todevelop these well-rounded engineers, while adhering to the requirements of ABET and ensuring aprogram’s continued accreditation? Two years ago, the Industrial Engineering faculty at a Carnegie VHRuniversity undertook a major project to revamp and update their curriculum and attempt to answer thesequestions. The results of the project represented a major curriculum change, with nearly 30% of thecourse credits in the curriculum undergoing some level of change. The cornerstone of these updatessought to increase flexibility in the program through introduction of cognate electives. This new cognateadds a free-form series of elective courses to the program which replaces a traditional set of professionalelectives focused on engineering topics. The cognate enables students to develop a customized focus areabased on their interests that is outside yet complementary to core industrial engineering topics. Theelectives are structured in a way that provides students a high degree of flexibility to explore other areasof education within the university and requires them to develop greater expertise in their chosen outsideinterest area. The change represents a higher level of flexibility than most traditional engineeringprograms allow. This article examines the creation and implementation of this program and explores howstudents are using this new-found flexibility.

Schell, W. J., & Claudio, D., & Sobek, D. K., & Stanley, L., & Ward, N. (2014, June), Introducing Flexibility in an Engineering Curriculum Through Student Designed Elective Programs Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20700

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