Universities Tailor Graduate Programs To Meet Industry Needs
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.Universities and corporations nationwide are uniting to create graduate programs to meet industries' special needs.
One recent example comes from the heartland where United Airlines Inc. and Purdue University, a national leader in aviation education, have joined forces to develop a management focused master's degree in technology specifically geared for people in the airline industry.
"Because graduate programs typically have a lot of flexibility already built into them, we were able to take some suggestions from United officials and very easily create the aviation management track within our industrial technology master's degree," says Mike Kroes, head of the Department of Aviation Technology. "By working in some business and communication courses that already existed in the graduate curriculum, we were able to tailor the program to fit what the industry is telling us will work for it."
Purdue faculty have been working with United Airlines since 1992 when the company decided to build a major maintenance facility at the Indianapolis International Airport, which is about 60 miles south of the Purdue campus. Initially the department oversaw an airline maintenance certification program and developed a schedule that allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation maintenance from Purdue by taking classes at the United facility in Indianapolis.
In 1996, the airline began sponsoring research projects for teams of graduate and undergraduate students to work on under the supervision of Purdue faculty.
"Purdue provides the educational services and expertise, and our students get a chance to help solve real-world problems for the airline," explains Gary Eiff, associate professor of aviation technology who was instrumental in crafting the partnership. "Many of these projects have been maintenance-driven, but we've also worked on some personnel issues, and that led to the development of the new management-focused master's degree option."
Purdue graduate students interested in aviation management will be able to work as part-time United employees during their second year of study, and United is making arrangements so that its Indianapolis employees can attend classes on the West Lafayette campus.
In addition, United personnel from around the world will be able to enroll in the School of Technology's new weekend master's degree program being launched this fall. Students will attend intense weekend instruction on the West Lafayette campus three times a semester, supplemented by on-line coursework, videoconferencing, lectures and discussion. Successful students will earn a master's degree in industrial technology in five semesters.
"United is really in a unique position to take advantage of the new weekend program, because it has the capability to fly its employees to campus regularly and at very little cost," Kroes says.
The new partnership also will result in a United Airlines-funded graduate assistantship within the AVTech department. Additionally, the company's president, John Edwardson, who also sits on the university's board of trustees, is sponsoring two full undergraduate scholarships for children of United employees who plan to study aviation technology or aeronautical engineering at Purdue.
"This partnership will open up all kinds of opportunities for both Purdue students and United employees," Eiff explains. "The department gets a graduate assistant who will be responsible for coordinating all of Purdue's activities with United, and the airline gets a direct link to highly qualified job candidates as well as an avenue for their people to upgrade skills or earn a master's degree."
Kroes says the comprehensive arrangement is a natural for both Purdue and United Airlines.
"We're getting first-hand knowledge of how a major airline operates, and that will enhance everything we do in the preparation of all our students," he says.
Purdue, which in 1930 became the first university to establish an airport and the first university to offer a flight-training program for college credit, has a fleet of 24 training aircraft used to train more than 200 students majoring in flight technology. Purdue's School of Technology also offers majors in aeronautical technology and aviation administration technology. Also, the Schools of Engineering include the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
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