Collaborative leadership training

Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
January 22, 2015

Six Bradley students mingled with Caterpillar employees and community members during a January Interim week of Lean Six Sigma training. The partnership between Caterpillar Inc. and the Foster College of Business gave students hands-on training in common business leadership and problem solving practices.

The class of 30 connected Bradley engineering and business majors to professionals from Caterpillar Inc., corporate suppliers and local schools. Several participants also brought international perspectives to the class.

“By interacting with working professionals in an informal setting, students are learning what’s being used in the field,” Management and Leadership Department Chair Dr. Ross Fink said. “It’s a great experience for them because it gives them a step up in the professional world.”

Bradley students received Six Sigma Green Belt recognition and three credits for the course. Green Belts are the second of four certifications in the training process, with Black Belts and Master Black Belts the final steps. 

Even though Katy Hawkins ‘16, an industrial engineering major from Peoria, already has participated in the Caterpillar Case Competition and has taken a Six Sigma class, she wanted another chance to develop skills.

“There is so much to learn, so I’m excited to get new perspectives and come out with a Green Belt,” she said. “Because I understand most of the vocabulary, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the words. I could take time to understand how to use the tools in the working world.”

Michael Damron ’15, a management and leadership major from Brimfield, took advantage of the week to network with Caterpillar employees he hopes to eventually work with. Like Hawkins, he also valued small group problem-solving exercises. 

“I enjoyed how everybody worked together,” he said. “We got to hear different perspectives and saw how different people can come together to use different techniques to find new solutions.”

The course’s lead instructor, Michael Hutchins, observed ideas freely flowing around tables throughout the week. The spark provided by the Bradley students, he noted, invigorated all involved.

“They’re young, mentally energized folks,” he said of the University’s participants. “They’re eager to learn and that brings up the energy level in class.”