Students benefit from a system of layered mentoring to tackle actual company challenges and accomplish deliverables that provide measurable value. The mentoring structure is multi-pronged, involving mentors and practitioners as well as faculty members and subject matter experts. Mentors frequently work as senior fellows in the Enterprise Systems Center. These fellows contribute to the Center’s success often after distinguished careers in industry. Their task is to serve as a sounding board and a coach for student teams, with students having a major responsibility for the project’s successful completion.
The layered mentoring model is built on three levels.
Layer 1: The Senior Fellow manages the client relationships and develops an understanding of a company’s long and short term objectives. From this understanding, the Senior Fellow acts as a mentor to guide, as required, development of work scope and specific project deliverables done in partnership with the client company.
Layer 2: The Senior Fellow works as a mentor with students to provide project management guidance and as a resource on problem solving, as required, to develop solutions to achieve deliverables.
Layer 3: Specific technical consultation and advice is provided to student teams by faculty, research engineers, and where appropriate Senior Fellows having specific technical expertise.
Students are the core resources around which the project is conceived and executed. The three layers of mentoring provide support in the framing of the problem and its deliverables, guidance during the conduct of the project, and specific technical input as it is required during project execution.
Here is a typical example. A team of seven (three students, three Senior Fellows, and one faculty member) participated in an SKU segmentation and production planning parameter project with a major lighting controls company. One of the Senior Fellows was the Relationship Manager coordinating the project with the Vice President of Operations at the company, another Senior Fellow and the Professor specializing in operations research and simulation served as the technical advisors coordinating with the functional managers at the company. Three students worked with the planning engineers to collect data, analyze and construct simulations and prepare recommendations that they (the students themselves) presented to the company.
This model differentiates the Center’s industry projects from: traditional student internships on company sites (such as summer internships), where students typically work with industry practitioners with no faculty or other University-based input, and from traditional industry-led research projects, where students do not receive mentoring by industry practitioners and are only mentored, in the best-case scenario, by their academic supervisor.