BIS and Naperville Center
Center offers strategic business improvement solutions
By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
Companies and engineers in the Chicago area now have greater access to the expertise and innovation offered by faculty members and students at the UI’s Urbana campus through educational programs, training and consulting services offered at a satellite facility in Naperville.
The Naperville Center is home to UI Business and Industry Services, a consulting group supported by UI Extension that helps organizations grow and thrive by offering companywide strategic business improvement solutions.
Beginning this semester, the College of Engineering began offering for-credit graduate programs in engineering and computer science at the UI’s Naperville Center, at 1100 E. Warrenville Road. Bruce Vojak, associate dean of engineering for external affairs, coordinated the initiative.
“We’re problem solvers, whether a business needs help with a culture change, developing a global strategy, improving inefficiencies or innovating with new products,” said Mary Rose Hennessy, BIS executive director. BIS instructors and consultants offer expertise in those areas as well as in human resources, and continuous process improvement and quality system implementation. Additionally, BIS offers certification in information technology and training in executive leadership, software and basic and technical skills.
“Many companies are frustrated because they don’t know how to access the brilliance and talent here at the university, and that’s one of our goals: to serve as a bridge between the university and the hundreds of companies who would love to have access to its people,” Hennessy said.
Companies are asking for help linking market needs to research opportunities on campus and want to meet with scholars at Illinois, Hennessy said. BIS is helping link engineering faculty members with various manufacturing companies to assist in the design and development of products, helping promote student design projects to manufacturers, and is connecting students in the master of business administration degree programs in the College of Business with companies for market research opportunities and internships as well as faculty-led courses that study various companies. BIS also promotes the UI’s MBA program offered in Chicago and the Career Services Programs offered by the colleges of Engineering and Business.
Beginning Jan. 11, BIS will offer a Global Strategy Certificate program to help businesses take advantage of, and profit from, growth opportunities in the global environment.
Currently, there are 32,000 Illinois graduates in DuPage County, and there is great need for graduate-level engineering courses, certificates and degrees in that geographic area. This fall, the College of Engineering began offering five certificate programs as well as a master of computer science degree program at the Naperville Center. The Technology Entrepreneur Center, an interdisciplinary unit within the college, began offering a graduate certificate program in Strategic Technology Management at Naperville this fall as well.
“This is really giving our College of Engineering alumni and other engineers the opportunity to learn about the business side of what they’re doing without having to get a full MBA or master’s degree,” said Rhiannon Clifton, TEC’s assistant director. “We try, in as few hours as possible, to give them the basics of finance, sales, management and strategy so they can start their own ventures or serve as leaders in whatever company they’re working in.” The certificates typically require six to eight credit hours, including fundamental courses and electives that allow students to develop expertise in areas of their choice.
TEC has offered its certificates on campus and online through Continuing Engineering Education for the past several years. About 40 people around the world have completed the STM certificate online since the program began, and the TEC has had a total of 585 students since it began offering courses in the 2002 fall semester. Enrollment fluctuates with the time of year, but typically ranges from as few as four students to as many as 20 students per program, Clifton said.
BIS is working with TEC to form a consortium to ensure minimum enrollment for the Business Management for Engineers program and will work with other units interested in boosting enrollment in the programs they offer at the Naperville Center.
The BIS facility has two state-of-the-art computer labs and executive-level training rooms and offers video conferencing, live teaching, online and blended learning. BIS occupies about 14,000 square feet at the Naperville Center and is expanding by another 10,000 square feet to accommodate graduate credit offerings. BIS, which began its partnership with Illinois in October 2006, previously was affiliated with Northern Illinois University for 15 years.
Over its 24-year history, BIS has assisted more than 6,000 organizations – including industry leaders such as McDonald’s, Ernst and Young, and BorgWarner Transmission Systems – and is working with some of the fastest-growing companies in Illinois. During its fiscal year 2006, BIS provided consulting and training to 562 organizations and 6,598 employees in the state of Illinois.