Lehigh University
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An internship program gets the business

Preparing students for real-world challenges is one of the goals of a Lehigh education. Over the summer, 50 undergraduate and graduate students got a taste of life after graduation by working on industry projects with 20 companies through the Enterprise Systems Center (ESC). Last week, those students gave presentations about their experiences at the new STEPS building.

The ESC summer experience is different from a traditional internship or co-op program, says Emory Zimmers, director of the ESC.

“These are mentored student programs,” says Zimmers, “driven by industry response and need. Lehigh meets with the organization, assesses their needs and then pulls together a student team that can best answer those needs. A team mentor from Lehigh is assigned to oversee the project and provide guidance to students.”

Students in Lehigh’s three undergraduate colleges—business and economics, engineering and applied science, and arts and sciences—took part in the ESC program last summer. The companies they worked with ranged from startups to Fortune 500 firms and included Alpha Packaging, Ateeco, B. Braun, Core-Mark, CumulusIQ, Kraft Foods, St. Luke’s Hospital, Mallinckrodt Baker, MetroTech, MHI, Micro-Clean, Nestle Waters, PB Transit & Rail Systems, Sharp Corp. and Tasty Bakery.

For businesses, partnering with Lehigh students has many benefits. In a project with St. Luke’s Health Network, an undergraduate psychology major, a graduate student in management science, and Beibei Dong, assistant professor of marketing, collaborated on a patient satisfaction model. The goal was to create a branded “wow” experience for patients and hospital visitors.

Well-defined goals and effective solutions

“The students took an integrated approach to surveys, process mapping and interviews,” says Robert Martin, senior vice president at St. Luke’s. “The deliverable was well-defined by the students and the process and solution to get there was more cost-effective for us.”

“I was transformed from an average student into a student with the responsibilities of a professional consultant, something I never would have experienced in a regular internship,” says Grace Mullane ’11, the psychology student assigned to the St. Luke’s project. “The ESC program allowed me to work on an interdisciplinary team, gain insight from a Lehigh alumnus and former CEO, and have frequent interactions with the client.”

ESC’s summer projects are varied. Recent examples include combining industrial engineering and electrical engineering skills to produce energy process maps for manufacturing sustainability analysis; developing a database management system; creating electronic training systems; developing solar energy case studies; commissioning new plant production lines; and reducing a transportation and logistics carbon footprint.

“The industry-led research program is designed to create long-term industry relationships that provide a platform for experiential learning and leadership development,” said Gus Gustafson, ESC Leadership Fellow and adjunct professor in the MBA VENTURESeries program. “They often lead to larger-scale research projects while contributing to the economic development of the region.”

The ESC is committed to enriching students’ education while helping its industrial clients become more efficient and competitive. It employs students, professors and professional engineers to work in interdisciplinary teams to make a measurable difference in real-world organizations.

 

Story by Jennifer Tucker

Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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