Gearing up globally

Jan 12, 2007

With world economies becoming more integrated each day, Kettering's new master's of science degree in Engineering Management prepares students for the global technical environment through advanced business education.

From a historian's perspective, the elongated shadow of globalization cast many years ago continues to grow.

One example: the automotive sector. Before 1970, repair shops had to purchase replacement parts for U.S. cars directly from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which had no competition in this market. This situation came to represent what the Insurance Information Institute describes on its website as "a lucrative monopoly, which they have fought to preserve". But when independent manufacturers in other countries decided they had had enough, they began producing their own replacement parts and the automotive world suddenly changed. Prices dropped and competition here and abroad increased exponentially.

Today, it's rare, if not impossible, to find an American car that uses components manufactured by U.S. firms. Many industries like the automotive sector are realizing important cost savings by securing components, parts and services from numerous firms from many different parts of the globe. This globalized approach to manufacturing and business in general is nothing new: over the past decade companies have outsourced work and manufacturing at an alarming rate, with some degree of success. Initially, this caused a great stir among industry leaders, political analysts and pundits. Although there remains a healthy debate about the necessity and financial feasibility of outsourcing to other countries, one evolutionary result of this practice is that firms throughout the world recognize that the global marketplace represents an important opportunity to sell products to a large base of customers and to develop global relationships with vendors and corporations that might eventually yield financial advantages and increased market share.

And with this increasing emphasis on global markets, companies recognize a need for technical professionals with international business experience. But are there professionals in the U.S. who have superior technical skills and business expertise to handle the challenges of an ever expanding global marketplace?

This is one question that might be answered through Kettering University's new master's of science degree program in Engineering Management, which prepares professionals for the demands of the global economy through two key objectives:


  • implement a program that provides engineering and technical managers with an educational experience to prepare them for careers as managers in their chosen field; and
  • provide these professionals with an international experience to prepare them for careers as managers in an integrated global market.

Dr. Tony Hain, head of Kettering's Dept. of Business, said that the new program offers both U.S. and German students from Kettering's European partner institutions an opportunity to network and learn about each other's culture and professional perspectives, since students from Kettering, Esslingen University and Reutlingen University will also pursue this degree. "Students from both countries will be in class together," he explained, adding that this experience will "reinforce their learning by exposing them to their counterparts from another country who may view topics in different and important ways. Not only do Kettering students have the chance to learn about different cultures, they also develop friendships and professional relationships with German students, and learn about the corporate culture and social structure of another country."

Hain said that the Dept. of Business Advisory Board played a crucial role in helping Kettering craft this new degree program. Representatives from some of these companies-such as General Motors Corp. (GM) and DaimlerChrysler-expressed a need to insure that all course offerings had an international flavor. Since many major manufacturers like GM now employ a common engineering platform in all facilities throughout the world in an effort to save money and increase efficiency, companies now expect engineers to develop the technical and business skills necessary to work in the global marketplace.

A key champion of this degree program, Hain said, is Dr. Neil McCarthy '65, associate professor of Business at Kettering, who helped propel program development through his close relationships with officials and faculty from Esslingen and Reutlingen Universities. McCarthy worked with faculty at these institutions to craft offerings that would benefit both U.S. and German students and faculty while meeting the global needs of industry.

"This is really a natural program development," McCarthy said. Ultimately, he hopes that this program will expand into such markets as China through a partnership with the University of China in Xian. Other plans include the potential for a faculty exchange between the German institutions and Kettering, in which faculty from Kettering would teach a few weeks at the German institutions and faculty from Esslingen and Reutlingen would do the same at Kettering.

Specific program components include Kettering engineering undergraduates working on completing all requirements for a Management minor. After this, students will take five required courses in Management and a non-credit course in the German language. Students will then take 16 credit hours at Esslingen University or 16 at Reutlingen University. Finally, students will complete a comprehensive learning experience course after returning to the U.S. and Kettering. This effort will typically involve solving a complex technical problem with global implications, which helps exercise all that students learned during the program through practical application.

Thus far, students who have enrolled in the program express great enthusiasm. According to Tyanna Lange, business manager for the Dept. of Business, students are excited about this opportunity. The program will start fall term 2007 at Kettering, then from January to May students will take 16 credit hours during two terms at Esslingen, or 16 credits at Reutlingen from March through July. Some of the subjects they will cover include International Finance, Law, Systems Technology, Case Study Production Management, Business Process Reengineering and Marketing.

To learn more about Kettering's new master's of science degree in Engineering Management, call Tyanna Lange at 810-762-7959.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
(810) 762-9538