Visionary and vital: Converging business and engineering

Dr. Lex Akers, Dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology

“Converging engineering and business only works if you have solid academic programming like ours.”

– Dr. Lex Akers

Working “shoulder to shoulder,” Dr. Lex Akers, dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, and Dr. Darrell Radson, dean of the Foster College of Business Administration, are leading their respective colleges to greater engagement and interaction. Their goal is to create unprecedented convergence opportunities for business and engineering students, enabling them to emerge as leaders in the global economy.

The deans define convergence as developing curricula, forming industrial partnerships, and increasing faculty scholarship to educate engineering and business students who can capitalize on high-potential business opportunities, especially those based on new technology. They credit their faculty members as the driving force behind the University’s strategic initiative. 

“The idea of convergence — business majors and engineering majors working collaboratively — is not new, but Bradley’s approach is,” Radson explained. “For example, last semester three teams of engineering and business students began working on three unique two-semester projects with a local entrepreneur, an established business, and Caterpillar. They have the opportunity to develop a new business opportunity from both the technical and the business side of the problem simultaneously. As our two colleges develop more convergence projects, these experiences embedded in our colleges will increase our students’ value in the workplace.”

Akers acknowledged the significance of a number of companies with connections to Bradley that are “literally a sandbox for our faculty and students to practice their expertise and skills while interfacing with professionals and building corporate relationships.”

As another example of convergence, last October the Young Professionals of Caterpillar (YPC) approached the business and engineering colleges with a Six Sigma case competition that culminated with presentations to Caterpillar managers. The teams, composed of Caterpillar employees and Bradley business and engineering students, examined cases and offered solutions to real business problems. “The educational experience for our students interacting with engaged, highly motivated, professional Caterpillar employees was incredible,” Radson commented.

Dr. Darrell Radson, Dean of the Foster College of Business Administration

“The idea of convergence — business majors and engineering majors working collaboratively — is not new, but Bradley’s approach is.”

– Dr. Darrell Radson

Both deans recognize that molding business to leverage the innovative ideas that emerge from engineering prepares students for a faster path to corporate leadership. Akers noted that convergence opportunities provide students “quite a leg up when they look for permanent employment.”

“They can demonstrate that they have had hands-on experience and developed world-class solutions to a problem,” Akers added. “Strong industry relationships help our students receive a better education, and there are many ways we can provide a distinct contribution to corporations. Converging engineering and business only works if you have solid academic programming like ours.” 

The deans also are expanding and enriching their colleges’ relationships with the medical, high-tech, manufacturing, and entrepreneurial communities, among others. By revolutionizing how the two colleges provide experiential learning through corporate development, the deans intend to help move the University toward national distinction. 

“One characteristic of business schools with national distinction is that they have multifaceted partnerships with corporations — relationships with faculty and research, relationships with student and executive development projects, and others,” Radson explained. “We are strengthening these relationships.”

Radson and Akers support the vision to house the colleges of business and engineering under one roof, creating a collaborative learning environment.

– Karen Crowley Metzinger, MA ’97