Friday, December 11, 2009

Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Report and the Isenberg School of Management

This week, the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education released a report by the Commissioner's Advisory Group on Undergraduate Education, which was charged with developing a cogent list of essential cross-cutting knowledge areas and skills that all students, regardless of major, should acquire during their undergraduate careers. Special emphasis in the months that preceded this report was placed on paying attention to the voices of employers and the citizenry. One of the 14 members of the group that prepared the report was Ray Stata, the Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of the high tech company, Analog Devices. The report has excellent recommendations and, given that the end of an incredibly busy (but very satisfying academic semester) is now approaching, I thought that it would be appropriate to highlight some of the recommendations. The focus is on public higher education but the recommendations are universal, in my opinion.

Also, I think that we are doing some things very right in the Isenberg School of Management, which includes the Operations Management undergrad program that I am closely affiliated with.

The report noted that, first and foremost, college graduates must master both disciplinary and interdisciplinary content and intellectual skills and identified three categories of student learning outcomes: college level fundamentals, integrative thinking, and civic, organizational, and career competencies.

In the first category, written and oral communication is stressed (wonderful), quantitative skills (way to go!), technological/information science facility (fantastic), and knowledge of the physical and natural worlds, human cultures, and knowledge integration across disciplines (terrific!).

In the second category, the following skills are identified: critical thinking and informed decision-making (sounds like my field of operations research / management science), creativity and innovation (I always try to stimulate research questions and ideas from my students), problem solving (this is what I and my students do while we are awake), and another true passion of mine -- systems thinking!

As for the third category, I highlight the noted skills: personal responsibility, civic and social responsibility, and teamwork/collaboration skills. These are all experiences that we try to have our students obtain in their course projects (as well as in their numerous extracurricular activities) at the Isenberg School of Managememt.

I congratulate this Advisory Group for an outstanding report! I suspect that having a technology leader such as Ray Stata in this group helped to produce this truly excellent report.

As promised in an earlier blog post, I leave you with a link to some of the student project presentations that my students in the undergrad transportation & logistics class gave this past week, including last Wednesday during a major snowfall -- all the presenters showed up in the morning, despite the snow (with some being trapped on a bus until the plows came through, with numerous accidents en route, etc.). Look at the project presentations, learn, and rejoice. I applaud the students.

As for the Stata name, I gave a talk at a workshop at MIT a year ago in the Stata building, which is an architectural wonder and is featured above, and last spring I sat in a middle seat en route to Frankfurt via Lufthansa, with a VP from Analog Devices on one side of me and an administrator from Harvard's executive education programs on the other side -- perfect seat-mates!