The Lean Enterprise Systems Summer Program was held this year for the fifth time, running from June 29 to July 31. The program culminated with a closing ceremony celebrated at the Crowne Plaza Knoxville Downtown University, where 178 participants were acknowledged for completing the requirements of the program.
The program is a five-week experience where participants from different parts of the world come to learn about continuous improvement, emphasizing in critical thinking for problem solving using principles of “lean”, and utilizing what is known as “experiential learning” so students can see the real applications of the acquired knowledge. The way this works is that students take classes at the university and then work with companies around the region that collaborate with us in the program, so students can work in solving a particular problem by doing a project with them. This is the fifth time we do the program, and has grown from 26 students in the first year to 178 this year.
More information on the program is available at utlean.utk.edu, and some news about this year’s program can be found at www.knoxnews.com. Promotion has expanded to Botswana, France, England, Ghana, Italy, Uganda, and South Korea, from where participation is expected in the future.
This program is relevant for students, because it represents a unique opportunity to study abroad and work at a company at the same time, to learn more about the culture in this region and to enjoy all the wonderful things Knoxville and East Tennessee have to offer; and for UT participants, is an opportunity to interact with people from other parts of the world and work together sharing different points of view. It is aimed to be perceived as an eye-opening experience that changes the way of thinking of participants, removing paradigms about other cultures and nurturing the reality of the world that is expecting them, where boundaries have almost vanished and at the speed of information disbursement that we currently have, can still put people as the center of any solution.
Adding to the aforementioned, from a local perspective, the program generates economic impact with the industry of the region, with assistance of the Center for Industrial Services to capture the magnitude of the projects developed. A co-lateral effect this has had in this context is that the interaction between participants and locals have helped to re-shape the impression of cultural paradigms in the way eastern Tennesseans see people from these countries, as well as the way the participants see people from here.
At a national level, this program has brought the attention of organizations such as the Institute of International Education and the National Institute of Standards and Technology not to mention faculty and professionals in this field from other universities and institutions.
The reputation this program has earned in other countries, specially Brazil and Mexico, is of such prestige that it is sought after as a first class opportunity to advance the education of participants in the area of continuous improvement, which is supported and sponsored by the most prestigious universities from these countries. It has earned support and recognition from the Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Society and the Institute of Industrial Engineers, which are a couple very important professional organizations in the field of industrial engineering.