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John Kobza in a Classroom

A Message from the Department Head

The more it changes, the more it stays the same. Looking for opportunities that others don’t see is a Volunteer tradition. Over the past month or so, I was visited by four alumni who were on campus recruiting IEs for their companies including HAVI Global Solutions, Lowe’s, CVS Health, and Thomas & Betts. If you are like me, you are unaware that HAVI handles the logistics for McDonald’s. Chris Karsten (BS/ME ‘96) told me they forecast daily demand for every menu item at every McDonald’s franchise in the country. That’s a lot of french fries! HAVI works with each location to satisfy demand while minimizing inventories and the waste of unused product.

Scott Wheatley (BS/IE ‘02) was hiring IEs for Lowe’s to perform traditional IE tasks related to work design and safety in its North Carolina warehouses.

CVS Health’s Joe Jernigan (BS/IE ‘86) needed students with strong operations research skills to solve their transportation network optimization problems.

Bill Custead (HCB ’71; MS/IE ’87) works at Thomas & Betts in Athens, Tennessee, which manufactures outlet boxes; millions of them! (You could say they are well connected.) Bill was seeking IEs to continue Thomas & Betts’ excellence in lean manufacturing.

These UT ISE alumni have done well in their companies and were in Knoxville to hire engineers who can continue to find opportunities for improvement and broaden the Volunteer tradition within those companies. The ISE Volunteer tradition runs deep within many other companies in Tennessee and beyond.

Dunlap Industries, for example, is one such company. Dunlap Industries recently invited me to represent the ISE department at their 50th anniversary.  Professor Dan Doulet (former ISE Professor and Department Head) was able to identify opportunities that led to the founding of the company in Dunlap, Tennessee. This year our department awarded him with the Howard P. Emerson Alumni Award.

Another exemplar of this Volunteer tradition is Dr. Leslie Benmark (BS/IE ’67; MS/IE ‘70).  She became a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1993. NAE membership is one of the highest recognitions of engineering accomplishment in the US. She later was involved in the nomination of Charles “Chad” O. Holliday (BS/IE ’70; Hon. PhD. Engr. ‘12) for NAE membership. Chad currently serves as Chair of the Council of the National Academy of Engineering.

Industrial engineering, in general, has a long history with the NAE. I recently learned that Lillian Gilbreth, one of the founders of industrial engineering, was the first female member of the NAE and that the NAE has an annual Gilbreth Lecture as a means of recognizing outstanding young American engineers.

We are proud of our ISE Volunteer tradition and the role the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering has in it. If you have stories or examples of this tradition you would like to share, please contact me at

Go ISE! Go Vols!

John E. Kobza
Department Head
Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering