Integration and synthesis of the industrial engineering curriculum

Bryan A. Norman, Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Bopaya Bidanda, Kim La Scola Needy, Jayant Rajgopal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh is addressing an important issue in IE education - how to develop a comprehensive, integrated curriculum that (1) is pedagogically sound, (2) thoroughly prepares graduating engineering students for industrial practice and graduate school, and (3) trains students to readily recognize and apply their engineering background to solve unstructured problems, both locally and beyond US borders. Over the last 20 years, profound changes have affected IE because of new technology, changes in the domains in which IEs practice, and changes in the tools available to solve problems in these domains. However, despite various efforts the IE curriculum has not kept pace with these changes. Recently, the IIE Council of Fellows has also expressed their concern over the content of IE curricula and their delivery. More specifically they state that, "There is an urgent need for a careful and comprehensive re-examination of IE, culminating in a contemporary definition of its foundational elements." Curriculum reform is an important step along this journey. The Council of Fellows has also noted that course material must be delivered using different pedagogical methods including lecture, problem based learning, and active learning methods. We suggest an innovative and unique approach to curriculum reform that contains four overarching objectives, namely (1) the integration of concepts across the curriculum; (2) teaching students to synthesize different concepts to solve unstructured problems; (3) providing problem solving methods and strategies within a societal framework that allows for their application within a local as well as a global context; and (4) creating a portable development methodology that can be readily adapted to other engineering disciplines. While there are several instances of integrated programs that have been successfully implemented at the freshman level, there appears to have been relatively little effort at extending integration beyond the freshman year. Specifically, there is a paucity of systematic efforts to integrate discipline-specific curricula, and no general model for doing so. Our broad objective is to develop a technically sound undergraduate IE curriculum that will (a) be tightly integrated and allow for enhanced learning, (b) ensure that our graduates will have the life-long engineering proficiencies to successfully apply what they learn, (c) allow our graduates to appreciate the societal role of engineering, both locally and globally, and (d) serve as a model for incorporating these same objectives into curricula for other industrial engineering programs and potentially other engineering disciplines. This paper presents a conceptual model for achieving this objective and reports upon the progress that has been made thus far on this ongoing effort.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2004
EventIIE Annual Conference and Exhibition 2004 - Houston, TX, United States
Duration: May 15 2004May 19 2004


ConferenceIIE Annual Conference and Exhibition 2004
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityHouston, TX


  • Curriculum reform
  • Engineering education
  • Industrial engineering
  • Integration
  • Synthesis


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