This fall, several Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD) professionals went back to school at Creighton. Specifically, at Creighton Business Institute. They went to class, CBI 515, Business Operations-Technical Focus, and they “graduated” at an awards lunch.
Creighton Business Institute, operating under the Heider College of Business, offers continuing education tailored to busy business professionals and blends the best of the academic classroom with experiential learning.
CBI has delivered Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification to seven cohorts of 20 MUD professionals since 2015. This course is part of a broader Lean Six Sigma curriculum, which aims for better effectiveness and efficiency within an organization. There are multiple levels of Lean Six Sigma certification, including white belt, yellow belt, green belt and black belt. Wishing to advance within the Six Sigma methodology, MUD selected 13 high-potential professionals across every division within the company to progress to the Green Belt certification, a 40-hour, three-graduate credit course using practical exercises incorporating business and statistical analytics.
“You can imagine the high level of motivation and enthusiasm they had for learning,” says Nalini Govindarajulu, PhD, associate professor in the Business Intelligence and Analytics Department. Over the past two years, she has taught all seven cohorts from MUD.
“The success of the CBI Lean Six Sigma program has been the customer-centered approach CBI gives interested prospects,” says CBI Director Jennifer Metzler. “Customization is the key both in materials delivered and data analyzed.
Govindarajulu offers this example of customization. Regression analysis, a statistical forecasting model, was not originally included in the course’s curriculum. But after Govindarajulu mentioned it in class, one of the students became excited and asked to learn more. Regression analysis was then worked into the course; students even remained longer on several occasions to accommodate the extra instruction.
It was time well spent. The student brought her MUD dataset to class to work on the prediction model as the class was discussing it. Her results were instrumental in finalizing the budget and safeguarding against rate hikes.
“Prior to my involvement with CBI, I didn’t realize that the academic community could provide so much value to industry,” says Govindarajulu. “As academics who are conducting research on current business problems and reading up on other research studies, we can advise professionals about outdated business practices that don’t work or need to be tweaked for today’s society.”
Benefits of the academic-industry partnership flows in the other direction as well. The business community provides academic researchers fodder for research problems and at times is the testing ground for theory.
For Govindarajulu, this partnership promotes the flow of ideas and solutions, which only benefits both academic theory and business practice.
“Business professionals bring to class ‘live’ problems that are so dynamic and time-sensitive and that create interesting classroom debates and discussions,” says Govindarajulu. “I was proud to see how eager the participants were to revolutionize the company armed with the theories, methodologies and tools they learned in class and humbled to realize how a single course could potentially transform an organization.”
Metzler reports that MUD has scheduled an additional Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certification course, in addition to the session that began in November 2017, for October 2018 and has also requested another Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification course, slotted for Fall 2018.