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Business and engineering students impress with their ability to innovate

In 2014, The Ohio State University Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) Honors program—the third of its kind in the nation—recruited its first cohort of students. Since then, the program has produced highly sought-after graduates with both engineering skills and business acumen, creating an alumni network that spans from New York City to Silicon Valley.

Two Ohio State students stand at the front of a classroom full of high school students.IBE students Matthew Young and Apoorva Mahesh lead an information session for prospective high school students.As an interdisciplinary program co-managed by the College of Engineering and the Fisher College of Business, IBE students graduate with a major in either engineering or business and a minor in the other discipline. While at Ohio State, they immerse themselves in interdisciplinary courses and real-world projects, but they also consider themselves ambassadors for the program’s future.

In October, high schoolers had the chance to learn about IBE during two student-led information sessions featuring a presentation, a panel and breakout sessions. Beyond covering GPA and curriculum requirements, the presenters focused on the tight-knit community and entrepreneurial mindsets developed within the program.

“Through all our diversity in coursework,” second-year finance and economics major Matthew Young told the prospective Buckeyes and their parents, “we try to create students who have technical skills, problem-solving abilities, an innovative spirit, eloquent personal skills and the ability to foster community.”

IBE students also take classes and seminars that offer experiences usually reserved for third- and fourth-year students, such as MBA-level courses and a first-year cornerstone project that mirrors senior capstones.

IBE Student Leadership Board President Surya Kukkapalli, a third-year computer science and engineering major, recounted his first-year cornerstone project during the information session panel—a spray nozzle attachment his team created for people with arthritis. The idea came to Kukkapalli when he saw his father struggle with a bottle of cleaning spray. Taking the finished product home remains one of the most impactful moments of Kukkapalli’s IBE experience.

Many IBE students apply those same problem-solving skills outside of classes by participating in and leading organizations like Buckeye Undergraduate Consulting Club, BuckeyeThon and Best Food Forward, a bulk-buying club run by students. They start organizations such as the Interdisciplinary Resource for Innovative Students (IRIS), intern at companies like Tesla, Deloitte and Microsoft, and even seek ways to grow the IBE program itself.

IBE students participated in a case competition at Root Insurance during fall semester.This semester, IBE students also had the unique opportunity to work with Root Insurance, one of Columbus’ most successful tech startups. The company hosted a case competition for the students at their downtown Columbus headquarters.

Members from all four cohorts participated, splitting into groups diverse in age and discipline. After receiving a brief on Root’s business problem, groups spent a day crafting possible solutions and getting feedback on their ideas from employees before presenting to executives. The case competition allowed students to exercise the collaborative and technical skills gained from their IBE coursework in a startup environment.

“Working with the Integrated Business and Engineering teams was a truly illuminating experience,” said Root Insurance Product Manager Derek DeHart, one of the case competition’s organizers. “Everyone walked away from the final presentations impressed by the rigorous problem-solving and inspired by the possibilities.”

Entrepreneurial mindsets and a desire to innovate drive IBE students to excel in the program. IBE Vice President of Recruitment Apoorva Mahesh, a second-year computer science and engineering major, emphasized this as she addressed a room of prospective IBE students.

“It fosters a certain mindset,” she said. “You gain the skills and experiences you need to succeed no matter where you go or what you set your mind to.”

Engineering Education Professor of Practice Peter Rogers, a program director, notes that the information sessions were the students’ idea. “These students have a strong desire to continually help improve the program, even though they’re getting ready to leave. It’s incredible.”

Learn more about the IBE program via the student-run website or contact Surya Kukkapalli (kukkapalli.1@osu.edu).

by Brianna Long, College of Engineering student communications assistant

Tags: Students