Continuing Education: new ways to customize profits

Nov 15, 2002

Kettering's Continuing Education (CE) program deepens the school's relationship with business and industry while educating technical and managerial professionals on the latest developments in technology, methods and programs.

The warbling, skin-eating bug that nibbles at the U.S. economy can be heard buzzing in the woods and on the shores of the Flint River just beyond campus.

But the school will not yield its relatively good health to this pest. At least not if Tony Hain, David Strubler, Mohammad Torfeh and Sheri Curtis have something to say about it.

These four individuals helped establish Kettering's Continuing Education (CE) program that deepens the school's relationship with business and industry while educating technical and managerial professionals on the latest developments in technology, methods and programs that ultimately contribute to their company's ability to generate profits.

The program positions the University to effectively respond to the increasing need among companies for in-depth, technically specialized continuing education opportunities. More importantly, CE could generate considerable income for the University at a time when uncertainty regarding the U.S. economy still looms in the air.

Evidence regarding the importance of continuing education to business and industry represents an opportunistic moment in Kettering's history. "Old School Ties," an article written by Barbara Wolcott published in the April 2002 issue of the journal "Mechanical Engineering" for example, suggests that because advancements in engineering "quickly translate into increased economic growth," schools such as Stanford University profit from research parks on campus and from developing continuing education programs for companies with which the institution conducts business. Wolcott also points out in her article that schools which develop continuing education programs for engineers, technical and management professional establish significant, long-term partnerships with industry, further supporting the notion that future engineers must learn to "cross pollinate their experience because the days of clear separation in engineering--mechanical from electrical, for example--are gone."

Kettering is quickly responding to this growing trend in post-graduate education and consulting opportunities. As a significant part of the University's Office of Graduate Studies and Corporate Connections, the philosophy that drives the CE program is simple: to create and deliver high quality, post graduate, technically specialized courses through a variety of delivery methods, and to form deep, long-term relationships with the school's corporate partners and other companies that seek educational opportunities for their professional staffs.

As Dr. David Strubler, associate vice president for Graduate Studies and Corporate Connections, put it, "We're wide and deep with more than 700 corporate partners and we expect to build on our relationship with industry and business by developing customized continuing education classes and short courses that meet their needs now and in the future."

The CE program, which is directed by Dr. Mohammed Torfeh, managed by Sheri Curtis of the Office of Graduate Studies and Corporate Education, and assisted by Strubler and Tony Hain, vice president of Graduate Studies and CorporateConnections, draws on the school's exceptional faculty to provide tailored continuing education programs for companies based on the unique attributes of Kettering's program. These attributes are what distinguish the Kettering CE program from those at such nationally known institutions as Purdue University, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford University and the University of Michigan.

Specifically, Kettering employs a two-tier need analysis system and multi-level evaluation process to ensure that CE courses meet the individual needs of companies. This analysis is tailored to the individual company and is flexible enough to allow changes to programming as necessary. Based on the University's ability to implement an in-depth needs assessment and evaluation procedure before the start and at the end of classes, Kettering can craft courses designed to address the industry-specific needs of each company before students engage in their first homework assignment. This then allows Strubler, Torfeh and Curtis to identify those aspects of class that best serve individual professionals and the company.

"We began a kind of CE program several years ago for Delphi," noted Torfeh. "At that time, the company wanted to retrain professionals to allow them to work in other areas of the company, since they all had different science and engineering backgrounds. These professionals came from all points in the world--Germany, Mexico, Korea-- and Delphi brought them toone of the companys Kokomo, Ind., facilities for a 12-week session taught by Kettering faculty. The class dealt with a number of issues, such as presentational speaking, technical writing and systems engineering where a number of engineering-related responsibilities are integrated into one function."

Today, Kettering is the only school that provides eight-week courses of instruction to six divisions of Delphi through theUniversity's CE program in partnership with Sigma Learning ( Sigma provides integrated training and education services to Delphi and suppliers. Hot topics of some of Kettering's short courses include the use of 42-volt systems in automotive applications recently presented by Professor Jim Gover of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept.

Julie Malesky, training coordinator of the Engineering Education and Training Task Team for the Delphi Saginaw Steering Systems facility, explained that through Sigma Learning, Kettering helps the company retrain and educate staff professionals for new assignments within the corporation. "Dr. Gover's 42-volt short course is an example of the kind of seminar our engineers and technical staff want to experience and need to learn about as it relates to their position," Malesky said. "Kettering's work through Sigma for Delphi has been very positive for the company and most significantly for the employees."

Thus far, evaluations from participants in the CE program and short courses are very positive. The CE program may also open doors for the school to engage in applied research activities with Delphi and other companies, and establish opportunities for new student co-op assignments. One tangible example of this is the recent consulting Torfeh conducted with Donnelly Electronics in Holly, Mich. Donnelly is also interested in increasing co-op positions at the firm.

Based on Torfeh's experience with Donnelly and Delphi, the future of the CE program looks even brighter. "We're looking into the development of a program for graduate credit as well," said Sheri Curtis, program manager of Kettering's CE program. "And possibly a certificate program in lean office operations. We're also working on creating other educational opportunities, such as hands-on training courses, workshops and seminars."

Overall, Torfeh, Strubler and Curtis hope the CE program will help develop long-term partnerships between the University and companies. They also want to build on the program by offering courses through other Kettering departments. For alumni, the CE program offers yet another important service to develop the skills and knowledge of technical and managerial professionals,which in turn creates better productivity and company profits.

"The CE program gives Kettering a way to further cement our relationships with corporate partners, provide exceptional, technically specialized courses for technical and managerial professionals, create consultancy opportunities for faculty and possibly more co-op jobs for students," Strubler said. "All of these things will positively impact our brand of education by broadening the school's appeal to business and industry."

For more information on Kettering's Continuing Education program, contact the Continuing Education Department at (810)762-9682 or (810) 762-7995 or visit the Kettering website at:

Delivery Modes: Kettering's CE Program

By offering several delivery modes for continuing education courses, participating companies can save thousands of dollars because students can take courses via the Internet from their home or office no matter how complex the subject. For example,Dr. Mohammad Torfeh has assisted in developing several highly technical post-graduate short courses via the Internet: Engineering Mathematics, MathLab and Data Communications. These Internet-based courses provide employees of companies a highly technical education without the costs associated with traditional classroom work.

Other delivery methods for Kettering's CE program include the following.

  1. Live delivery--courses taught on campus or at company location.
  2. Videotape--CE instructors videotape courses and all handouts, labs or case studies are available online via Blackboard.
  3. CD-ROM--videotaped course is burned onto a CD-ROM and handouts, or case studies available online via Blackboard.
  4. Web/Internet--students can attend class entirely via the Internet.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9635