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Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering

Featured Story | The Identity Initiative

IMSE department and alumni groups continue mission to refocus education on identity development

If you were to fit higher education into a typical business model, most people would label faculty and staff as employees and students as the consumers, with the end product for sale being knowledge and, ultimately, a diploma.

IMSE faculty and alumni groups are on a mission to change this mindset within the department. By focusing on development of students’ identities, the department envisions a program that places students in the role of shareholders, rather than consumers.

IMSE Identity Initiative
IMSE Advisory Council members, from left, Lori Jester, Kerry Kaiser, Michelle Schlie and Kristine Sheedy participate in a roundtable discussion at the fall Advisory Council meeting Oct. 21, 2016.

“We want students to embrace the full range of experiences, technical skills and soft skills they can gain from our programs,” said Bradley Kramer, department head. “The more invested they are in their education, the more successful they will be as lifelong learners and leaders in industry.”

Through the identity initiative, IMSE aims to help students better understand their interests and goals within the broad field of industrial engineering. With a better sense of their IE identity, students are more likely to persist in the field and will be better able to market their adaptable skill sets as they embark on their careers.

One major change the department is working toward involves expanding the senior manufacturing systems design and analysis course into a more continuous production system, in which students will be able to participate as early as their sophomore year.

Many smaller changes will also be needed to truly change the way people perceive the education system. At the IMSE Advisory Council meeting last fall, alumni and faculty came together to begin formulating ways to turn the identity initiative into an actionable reality.

“K-State and IMSE already have a lot of strengths we can build from,” Bryce Huschka, advisory council chair, said. “At the top of that list are K-State’s family atmosphere and IMSE’s tradition of hands-on and group learning.”

Huschka proposed implementing a skills literacy framework to define the core technical and soft skills necessary to succeed as an industrial engineer. With a core framework defined, individuals will have further opportunity to discover their career aspirations and define their own terms of success.

And it’s not just about students. IMSE sees faculty and alumni as shareholders in the department’s success as well.

While the advisory council focuses on how to define and integrate the industrial engineering identity into the department’s curriculum and programs, the IMSE Professional Academy continues to seek new ways to engage alumni in the department’s mission.

The Professional Academy Mentoring Program is one of the key ways alumni can directly impact students’ lives. Alumni mentors are critical to IMSE’s mission to help students in professional development and career planning. This year, the program has grown to more than 90 mentor-mentee pairs.

Eventually, they hope to expand their mentorship abilities to alumni as well as students.

“Developing your IE identity is a continuous process,” Academy President, Chris Althoff, said. “Graduating, getting your first job — that’s just the beginning. We want to create a network of IMSE alumni who can support each other far beyond graduation.”