Letter From the Chair

As Dr. Diann Brei, ISD Chair and Professor, approaches the end of her term, she reflects on our transformational accomplishments and thanks those who have collaborated and contributed along the way.

Dear ISD Community,

As I near completion of my term as Chair of Integrative Systems + Design, I am reflecting on how every one of our transformational accomplishments was completed by a true team. I am thankful and grateful for our collective efforts over the last five years, and honored and humbled to have served this group of outstanding, intelligent, and dedicated people.

Living Our Mission

Our mission is to empower Systems and Design leaders through our integrative mindset, methodologies, and actions to serve the common good. Critical to our mission is a collaborative community that is actively engaged, continually learns, and inspires action resulting in a true impact on our world through research, education, practice, and service. We realize our mission by identifying needs and creating equitable solutions using a process that fully includes the perspectives, concerns, insights, capabilities, and technical skills of a global and diverse community. We accomplish our mission working together to develop and deliver educational programs that go beyond integrating multiple disciplines and delivery modes for leaders on campus and around the globe. We are systems and design engineers whose value pushes beyond a single domain.

Cultivating an Integrative Mindset

We support our mission by valuing an integrative mindset we describe as a holistic approach that is critical to the future of technology and industry. Big evolutions are on the way. Whether its advances in Additive Manufacturing, autonomous and electric vehicles, datafication and Artificial Intelligence, technology today is accelerating at a rapid pace, enabling even faster change and progress. We matter to emerging technologies in automotive, energy, manufacturing and other fields, and will continue to play a critical role in how they evolve.

Celebrating Our Accomplishments Together

During the last five years of my term as chair, we accomplished many meaningful and impactful accomplishments together. Here are just a few to reflect on and celebrate: 

Transforming Education

Continuing to Rank Among the Leaders and Best

Year after year, U.S. News and World Report ranks ISD’s six graduate programs between fourth-sixth best in the nation and its overall Master’s in Engineering Programs sixth best in 2023. 

Re-imagining Our Curriculum Framework

Responding to the needs of industry and workforce re-development, we developed a new unifying curriculum, which is forward thinking, transformative, flexible, and true to the integrative mindset, while retaining the rigor one would expect from a preeminent university. It recasts all of ISD programs within four key elements: Integrative Science, Program Core, Career Pathways, and Immersive Practice. Students benefit in learning how to address global challenges, gaining a deeper understanding in their field of study, becoming an authority by choosing their own career pathway, and capping off their degree through real-world practical work experience.

Expediting Credentials

ISD expanded ways for students to expedite their professional careers leveraging ISD’s new curriculum. We offer the opportunity for students to achieve International Council on System Engineering (INCOSE) certification. This academic equivalency allows U-M graduate engineering students to bypass taking the certification exam by taking our courses in SED to become certified system engineers, a major benefit. We expanded our SUGS offerings with Material Science and Nuclear Engineering, as well as working with other partner departments, including Civil Engineering, on joint career pathways. 

Innovating Advanced Classes

ISD is at the forefront in delivering innovative, industry-driven, and relevant courses. We employ a multidisciplinary team approach to advanced graduate courses teaching with domain experts across many departments in accelerated deep dive modules and supporting labs. Our modernized manufacturing degree with a focus on smart manufacturing with an exciting core class smart manufacturing  to  empower students with emerging smart technologies like computational simulations, data analytics, advanced sensing, IoT, cloud computing, etc. This is supported by the new Additive Manufacturing (AM) master’s pathway with leading AM course provides foundational knowledge to build skills in Smart Additive Manufacturing, and introduces various aspects of experiential learning. Hands-on labs and industrial case studies are used to reinforce the course material.  In the Automotive program we have renovated the AUTO 501 Integrated Vehicle Design class to connect the lectures of industry experts to a full semester product creation project to enable them to demonstrate application of the concepts the lecturers were talking about and to bring technical leadership debates into the class to broaden the perspectives of students for the socio-technical and business issues they will face on the job. We have also created a new course on the Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics to better link first principle vehicle physical behavior with the vehicle parameters that influence them. Many of our classes updated their supporting digital infrastructure to align with industry tools, including MagicDraw, CarSim, and ANSYS LS-DYNA.

Developing Cutting-Edge Labs

Collaborating with leading industry experts and renowned faculty, we developed innovative advanced graduate level labs and experiences unique in higher education. Take, for example, our hands-on Additive Manufacturing Lab, which helps students gain a highly competitive, 360-degree advantage industry hiring managers demand, becoming more desirable to industry because they understand how to see the whole picture and how these different aspects come together to create effective solutions. We pioneered the hands-on-line labs, providing online students with top equipment delivered to their homes to complement the onsite lab additive manufacturing equipment for our online students. And we offer a state-of-the-art simulation experience, thanks to our partnering with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. ISD’s Smart Vehicle Simulation Lab helps streamline the understanding of complex vehicle design and multi-domain integration, and provides students with news ways to experience their assignments.

Celebrating Leaders and Best

Our students are excellent and are continually being recognized for their hard work, dedication, and achievements. Within ISD, we have honored students with the ISD Leadership Award for DEI and our ISD Outstanding Capstone Award. Our students continually earn the top CoE awards, including the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Prize for Distinguished Academic Achievement, Distinguished Leadership Award, MLK Spirit Award, and Willie Hobbs Moore Achievement Award – Women in Science & Engineering. Within U-M, our students have earned the Dow Sustainability Fellowship.

Integrative Research

Planting the Seeds for Research Success: ISD sought out “transformative” research proposals that address societal gaps through integration of fields to holistically inspire engineers, focus on qualitative and quantitative research methods to demonstrate the beneficial role of integrative approaches, and inspire broader national efforts through additional proposals on a national level. ISD funded six seed grant proposals engaging nearly 30 faculty research teams across eight U-M departments and colleges. To date, two major external proposals stemming from these seeds were submitted in this context related to recycling and re-use of parts of the windmills for a circular economy and a digital twin for optimization of windmill blade production.

Earning Major Recognition

ISD faculty consistently garner national recognition for excellence. Here is a short list of the many awards bestowed on our extraordinary faculty:

ISD founder and Professor Panos Papalambros was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The NAE elected him for his contributions to complex systems optimization and leadership in advancing transformative engineering design research and education.

ISD Systems Engineering + Design Program Director Bob Bordley was honored with the Michigan International Council on Systems Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award for impacting the systems engineering community in extraordinary ways by making meaningful contributions to our discipline. He also earned the Frank P. Ramsey Medal by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences for distinguished contributions in decision analysis and the Distinguished Educator Award by the Industrial Engineering and Operations Management Society International in recognition and appreciation of outstanding achievements and contributions in the industrial engineering and operations management profession.

Professor Diann Brei became the first woman to be recognized with the 2022 ASME Machine Design Award for outstanding contributions in novel device design and for supporting engineering science, as well as for mentoring and building communities in the field of smart materials and structures. 

Several of our faculty became endowed collegiate professors:

ISD GAME Program Director Pingsha Dong was appointed Robert F. Beck Collegiate Professor of Engineering.

ISD Energy Systems Engineering Program Director Suljo Linic was appointed Martin Lewis Perl Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

ISD Associate Chair Miki Banu was recognized with the Collegiate Research Professorship Award

Engaging Our Community

Growing Student Community

Core to our mission is serving our students. Over the last five years, we were able to grow our student enrollment, increasing incoming student enrollment an average of 43% across all programs, in part by leveraging our relationships with our industry partners (KLA, SKJ, Ford, GM TEP, etc) and pipeline schools, such as SJTU-JI, to create a steady pipeline of students for the future. 

Engaging Students

Through focus groups and meetings, we engaged our Graduate Student Advisory Council and other ISD students to plan profession and social events to support our student community, such as Game Night and Trivia Contests, and educational workshops, such as Solidworks and Matlab. We developed a weekly roundtable series to provide both timely information on our Return to Operation and useful information, skills and networking, DEI events, and an extensive Career Week (in collaboration with ECRC) with elevator pitch booth, lunch and learning, career chat, professional photos for LinkedIn profiles, and interviewing skills.

Championing a Positive Learning Organization

Being our best means learning how we can improve to be our most effective self. This includes ensuring a robust and thriving work environment, and providing the highest quality services. We conducted a health assessment to help gain a better understanding of what is working and what is not. This resulted in a move to become a Positive Learning Organization. Inclusive of all faculty and staff, we successfully implemented new initiatives through leadership coaching and training for a new strategic leadership and management approach; new operational framework for leadership roles, responsibilities, empowerment, and decision-making; effective operational and responsive customer-service activities; techniques for positive energizing; strengthening high-quality connections; and experimenting for success, we are encouraging creativity, brainstorming, and experimentation. Giving faculty and staff room and time to accumulate knowledge, explore interests, and share their insights empowers them to reach new heights in their work and relationships. The results have been very positive.

Expanding our Academic and Corporate Partners

We have strengthened our community and increased the engagement of our faculty, alumni, and our industrial partners. Our regular and affiliated faculty has grown to close to 60 affiliates from 21 departments and schools across our University and are actively engaged in teaching, advising to capstone projects, and our program. These dedicated faculty worked diligently to create our highly successful new curriculum, in addition to our long-term highly valued partner GM TEP through a co-creation Blitz. We also welcomed SKF, a major provider of ball bearing products and technology to original equipment manufacturers and industrial operations in virtually every major industry, to our corporate partnership profile, which includes Ford, GM, and KLA.

Forging a Proactive ISD Alumni Leadership Board

We launched our inaugural ISD Alumni Leadership Board to build a strong and engaged alumni community and advocate for their needs, be a sounding board for alumni to gather feedback and input to continuously improve and strengthen ISD, nurture a strong connection between alumni and ISD faculty and students, provide mechanisms for career mentorship and networking with alumni and with ISD students, create pipelines for practica/capstone projects and host via alumni relationships, and help ISD build a preeminent global identity and reputation.

Infusing DEI Within ISD

All of our diligent efforts over the past years are yielding high returns as we infuse DEI into ISD courses, research, our capstone projects, and throughout our professional lives.  Our highly annual  ISD DEI Action Summit contributed to this success by laying a solid foundation for advanced DEI activities across the college.   

Going for the Gold

Providing the very best services to our community is paramount to our success. As such, we created gold star staff standards and services, including norms, values, formal staff check ins, feedback loops for constructive review, and documented workflow. In addition, we moved from paper and spreadsheets to a digital infrastructure to support a data-driven approach.  Each year, we honor the outstanding accomplishments of staff members who go above and beyond with the CoE ISD Staff Incentive Award and the ISD Staff Excellence Award.

Moving forward, I know our world will be continually changing. I know ISD will be at the forefront making a difference by applying our integrative mindset to complex systems and design – empowering leaders to transform our world in rapidly evolving industries and fields, including automotive, energy systems, manufacturing, systems and design.

Working collegially, we have accomplished much together. I am truly thankful and grateful for the opportunity to work with our dedicated students, faculty, alumni, partners, and staff in leading transformational changes in industry and preparing the next generation of integrative leaders.

A world of thanks!