Lehigh’s efforts to develop skilled leaders were recently lauded at the University Economic Development Association’s (UEDA) annual summit in Chattanooga, Tenn. Lehigh won the award in the category of “Talent Development” for the project “Developing Analytics & Operations Research Practitioners.”
The project was submitted by Lehigh’s Enterprise Systems Center (ESC) and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
“This award is truly a testament to the work our students have been doing with companies on an array of projects,” said William D. Michalerya, associate vice president of government relations and economic development at Lehigh, and president of UEDA. “Students really help these companies, and they can take a fresh look at a problem and offer valuable insight.”
For the project, Lehigh’s ESC collaborated with the industrial and systems engineering department to employ advanced predictive analytics to solve a problem brought to their attention by a financial firm looking for a solution. The company invested in developing a new financial model, one that could help with collecting outstanding loans, while simultaneously assessing the likelihood of future payments. In addition, students benefitted from a layered mentoring experience with experienced industry executives, many of whom are Lehigh alumni.
Founded in 1973 by Emory Zimmers, professor of industrial and systems engineering, the ESC at Lehigh is one of the longest-running analytics research centers in the country.
"A core mission of our university is to offer dynamic learning experiences and we are proud to offer these opportunities for our students. In addition, we are always appreciative of alumni who support efforts with student involvement in research center programs and encourage our Academic Initiative for Leadership Development," said Zimmers.
H. Robert Gustafson Jr. ’74, the managing director of the ESC, said the award reflects the opportunity Lehigh students have to solve real problems for companies.
“The companies we work with benefit and can see how the students are growing as learners and practitioners. It’s extremely rewarding to see the impact this program has on students’ educational experience,” said Gustafson.
An extended run of success
Lehigh has had strong showings at the UEDA’s annual awards summit in recent years. In 2011, Lehigh’s Enterprise Systems Center was recognized by UEDA for its Sustainable Manufacturing program, in which student teams collaborate with experienced consultants to help large and small manufacturing companies.
In 2010, Lehigh won UEDA’s Award for Excellence in Technology Commercialization for its entrepreneurship programs. That year, UEDA highlighted EcoTech Marine, a company founded by Lehigh alumni Tim Marks ’04 and Pat Clasen ’04 while they were undergraduates in the IPD program.
Ochs, who has served as the director of Lehigh’s IPD program since 1999, and said that Lehigh’s commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration is a core principle of the IPD program and of the new technical entrepreneurship master’s program.
“We’re trying to encourage students from anywhere on campus or in the country with an undergraduate degree interested in developing a product or starting a company to do it,” said Ochs. “Lehigh has a track record of students developing successful projects. When you have a group of people from different disciplines come together, you get a unique combination of insights that allows creation to occur in a whole new way.”
“We often have students come back and say they extremely well equipped to start their jobs after graduation because of the work they’re doing here,” said Gustafson.