Developing Undergraduate Student Research Experiences in Operations Management

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Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education


In search of pedagogical strategies to raise undergraduate business education to a new level, the Carnegie's Boyer Commission Report (1998) recommends “to make research-based learning the standard.” In other countries, this is already the norm. In Germany, for example, business students typically prepare several theses as a formal part of their studies. Also in science and engineering, research participation is an important step in undergraduate student development and is hence highly promoted by the National Science Foundation (NSF). In 2006, the NSF devoted $33 million to corresponding programs. Benefits are highlighted in numerous pedagogical articles––see, for example, Chang (2005).

Unlike science and engineering, business student involvement in research activities in U.S. schools has been traditionally restricted to graduates (master's, PhD). A notable exception can be found at the University of Dayton (UD), Ohio. Here, we offer an undergraduate research experience for all students of Operations Management. It constitutes roughly 35% of the semester schedule of Supply Chain Management Strategies, a final core course for students in the fourth year. Circa 40 working hours are allocated for the active research experience for each student. The goal of the program is to infuse an attitude of lifelong learning, to sharpen students' objectivity, to enhance their ability to search and filter relevant information, and to improve their writing and oral presentation skills.

Students might be motivated by the following tangible benefits. The program helps them specialize “just-in-time,” that is, weeks before graduating, on a topic of their interest and choice, respectively. As the final presentations are conducted in a professional setting, interested companies can contact students directly for job opportunities. Research projects serve as a unique selling point in a student's curriculum vitae. For example, a recent undergraduate won the prestigious American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) national student paper competition for his project under this program.

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