44 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Bringing industry examples
to the classroom
Universities can leverage professional expertise to teach upper-level courses
By Dave Hampton and Karla Carichner
Preparing students with real-
world skills is a core focus of
our universities. Industry ad-
visers can partner with facul-
ties to balance fundamental
learning with evolving indus-
try needs and expose students to mul-
tiple industries.
The California Polytechnic State
University-San Luis Obispo industrial
and manufacturing engineering facul-
ty/industry advisory board partnership
accepted this challenge by leveraging
Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” tradition
to deliver a course entirely taught by its
IAB members.
This course bridges academia and in-
dustry by preparing students in multi-
ple ways: providing a broad view of IEs
role in the value chain, enabling expe-
rience with real products throughout
the value chain and sharing highlights
of emerging industry trends and active
mentorship. Industry partners have also
benefited by becoming energized with
their ability to make an impact in the
education of engineering students.
The relationship between industry
boards and engineering departments
continues to evolve and typically pro-
vides guidance on curriculum rele-
vance, supports fundraising efforts and
provides a voice of industry. The Cal
Poly-San Luis Obispo IME department
has further evolved the partnership
by developing and adopting a model
where each stakeholder is a customer of
the others.
Students want jobs and engagement;
faculty want industry perspective; and
industry wants plug-and-play hires of
the highest quality. To help bring this
new operating model to life, the faculty
and IAB at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo
adopted key performance metrics that
track the performance of the depart-
ment. Three performance areas were
identified: input, in-process and output,
and one or two metrics that supported
the department mission were selected
for each. These metrics have faculty
April 2020 | ISE Magazine 45
Following the course
IME 460, the IAB-facilitated technical elective, teaches students along a value chain.
and IAB owners and are discussed at
meetings. Typical discussions focus on
scorecard review and development of
action plans to address opportunities.
Some encouraging results from the
focus include female student repre-
sentation increasing by 50% and three
times more students transferring into
industrial engineering from other ma-
jors rather than transferring out.
Course design on
a value chain
One of the first opportunities identi-
fied was to leverage the Cal Poly IAB
to bring more actual industry focus to
the curriculum. With its broad experi-
ence base, it could be a lever to advance
student engagement and supplement
the great work already provided by the
faculty. The team brainstormed a con-
cept where the board develops and de-
livers content for a senior level course
based on a typical value chain. This
course has been taught annually since
2010 and has brought greater industry
exposure to over 300 students. It was
taught as a “concept” class for a number
of years but has since been added as a
permanent course.
The value chain course (IME 460)
is taught each spring quarter and meets
once a week for three hours. The course
is structured along a traditional value
chain (R&D, sales, manufacturing,
supply chain, etc.) with IAB members
delivering weekly content and activi-
ties, including a real industry challenge.
Based on current trends, extra emphasis
is placed on lean, financial analysis and
data analytics. The specific learning
objectives of the course are for the stu-
dents to comprehend and explain key
steps of the value chain, demonstrate
how multiple processes support differ-
ent steps of the value chain and to com-
pare and contrast how different com-
panies from different industries execute
their value chains (see Figure 1).
The course supports 30-plus students
who are assigned to nine groups for the
duration of the quarter. Each student
group is aligned with one of the week-
ly topics and is matched up with the
corresponding IAB representative(s).
A department faculty member attends
all sessions to ensure learning objec-
tives are achieved and that grading is
consistent and appropriate.
The course is taught in four modules
that are consistent from week to week:
1. Each week, a student group deliv-
ers a 30-minute presentation to the
entire class on that weeks topic.
The presentation focuses on provid-
ing a broad overview of the topic,
not the IAB companies. Prior to
the presentation, the student groups
connect with their IAB partner for
guidance and direction on the topic.
The students may have two or three
contacts with the IAB partner to
discuss research methods, presenta-
tion thoughts, rehearsals, etc. The
student group receives peer feedback
from the balance of the class and a
formal grade from the IAB partner
(30% of the course grade).
2. The IAB partner then leads a
60-minute discussion on how his or
her company executes that weeks
step of the value chain. Quality
(lean, Six Sigma), data analytics and
nancial elements are integrated into
the discussion. Presentation methods
include PowerPoints, videos and
class activities.
3. The last 90 minutes are spent with
student groups working on “chal-
lenge problems” provided by the
IAB partner. The focus of the chal-
lenge problem is to provide real
problems that companies face and are
related to that day’s topic. The goal is
to force students “beyond the text-
books” to solve issues that often have
no perfect answer. Based on time,
groups will explain their findings
to the class. Each group also submits
two one-page papers (30% of course
grade). One paper details their chal-
lenge problem response and the oth-
er shares what they thought was the
most important and the most unclear
portions of that day’s topic.
4. In week one, each student group se-
lects an actual product that will be
referenced throughout the quarter as
part of a “living term paper.” Each
week, student groups add a chapter
to their term paper that explains
how their product will execute that
weeks step of the value chain. IAB
partners periodically review the
term paper with their student group
46 ISE Magazine | www.iise.org/ISEmagazine
Bringing industry examples to the classroom
and provide guidance and feedback
on how well they are integrating
their learnings. At the end of the
quarter, the IAB partner and faculty
representative provide a grade (30%
of course grade).
The IAB partner is responsible for
evaluating the student group presenta-
tion and all the challenge questions for
their assigned week, as well as their spe-
cific student group’s living term paper.
The faculty representative ensures con-
sistency on the grading and also assigns
the final 10% based on attendance and
Course performance
and feedback
At the end of the quarter, students
complete a paper providing construc-
tive feedback on the course. The IAB
reviews the student feedback, and also
receives input from the faculty. Agenda
time is allocated at IAB meetings to
discuss and develop action plans.
Student feedback from all 10 years has
been very positive, specifically the ben-
efits from the challenge problem, which
has led to more time dedicated to that
activity. They also feel better engaged
when multiple mediums and styles are
used vs. when just PowerPoint presenta-
tions are delivered. This has been a big
learning opportunity for the industry
advisers with continued progress toward
improving delivery via more class activi-
ties and more frequent checks for under-
standing. You can read some feedback
samples in the accompanying article
Early faculty feedback focused on
the need for more rigor in the grad-
ing process and that specific learning
objectives should be better dened.
With that feedback, the IAB developed
learning objectives that are now part of
the syllabus. Finally, the IAB and fac-
ulty work together on defining specific
Student feedback on IAB course
Here are some impressions students at Luis Cal Poly-San Obispo offered for the courses taught by its industry advisers.
“It showed how important the value chain is to the
customer and how the different aspects of manufacturing
are only important if they provide value directly to the
“I liked how we get to see each week’s topic from two
sides (students’ theory/research and industry experts’
practical evidence).”
“I really liked getting interactive with the IAB members. It
gives you a lot more insight into what they do in the real
• “This is one of the best classes I’ve taken at Poly and I’ve
enjoyed every lecture and presentation.”
• “Working to solve real industry problems in teams was a
unique experience within the classroom.”
April 2020 | ISE Magazine 47
focus areas – leading to lean and data
analytics now having dedicated agenda
Based on feedback from the spring
2019 session, the IAB and department
are evaluating adding another offering
of the class in the fall quarter and ex-
panding the content to include “soft
value chains (i.e., software). The IAB
is also working to continue broadening
the industry coverage and better bal-
ance the gender representation of the
Other IAB/department
While the value chain course has been
a significant example of the IAB/de-
partment partnership, there have been
many other rewarding collaborations:
Identified need, designed courses
and secured faculty to integrate data
analytics into the IME curriculum.
All Cal Poly students must complete
a senior project prior to graduation.
The IAB has supported the process
by having conference calls with stu-
dents on project scope and planning
and by reviewing and evaluating
mid-cycle and final project reports.
IAB members are active mentors
of IE department students and have
matched up with faculty to advise
student clubs.
IAB members participate in Ac-
creditation Board for Engineering
and Technology evaluations, sharing
how industry and academia partner
together for student success.
IAB members have funded an en-
dowed scholarship that is awarded to
an IME student each year, in perpe-
Industry advisory boards can be an
important link in every engineering de-
partment. This partnership works very
well when there is an integrated strategy
between faculty, students and IAB with
the common objective of maximizing
the learning opportunity and improving
The Cal Poly IME department has
been able to provide more industry
awareness to the department by pro-
viding a course delivered by the IAB.
While many classes leverage industry
for occasional guest speakers, having a
complete course led by industry experts
has enabled a much deeper exposure to
industry. Using value chain as the course
topic provided a structure to drive the
discussions and made it possible for stu-
dents to hear points of view across mul-
tiple industries and multiple functions of
an organization. It also benefits the IAB
partners by providing more exposure to
the students and to gain experience by
teaching (see Figure 2).
Finally, the faculty ben-
efits as they can suggest that
specific areas get additional
focus and that students get
exposure to learning oppor-
tunities that are “beyond the
The overall value of the
course is best summed up by
Dan Waldorf, Ph.D, the IME
department head, who said:
The Value Chain Analysis
Course (IME 460) that is
offered by our industry ad-
visers has been an extremely
valuable and popular option
for our students. The real-
world perspective they see and the per-
sonal connections they get have helped
them become more successful over the
years in finding the right jobs for their
careers. Word is out that students need
to seek out and get in on the course as
soon as they can.
Dave Hampton is a 1986 graduate of
the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo Industrial
Engineering Department. He has served
on the Cal Poly IME Industry Advisory
Board since 2005 and chaired the IAB
from 2008-2017. He recently retired after
32 years with Frito-Lay Inc., where he led
the Go-To-Market Organization that in-
novated and deployed strategies, tools and
processes that supported a 15,000-route
direct store delivery system. He is an IISE
member and member of the Work Systems
Division Board and IISE Industry Advi-
sory Board.
Karla Carichner is a 1987 ceramic engi-
neering graduate of the University of Illi-
nois. After working more than 25 years in
the semiconductor industry in design, man-
ufacturing and supply chain/operations ex-
ecutive roles, she retired to San Luis Obispo
and currently is a part-time lecturer in the
College of Engineering at Cal Poly. She
teaches intro to materials, supply chain,
sales engineering, project management and
coordinates the interdisciplinary senior proj-
ect class.
IAB course benefits
What each stakeholder gains from the IAB-facilitated course.