Education - Page 1 - Strengthening degrees for job success

- Page 1
Strengthening degrees for job success
Specialized programs enhance student learning

By Elizabeth Schuman, Contributing Writer

Carroll County resident Olivia Wolcott is beginning her junior year at the University of Maryland at College Park focused firmly on leaping successfully from academics to graduate school and the workforce. A bioengineering major, Wolcott is a member of Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST), a highly selective academic program for majors in engineering, business and the sciences.

While she gravitated toward science in high school, it was after she had reconstructive foot surgery that she became interested in biomedical engineering. Looking further ahead, she envisions completing an MBA after her undergraduate degree.

That makes QUEST the perfect fit for Wolcott.

Celebrating its 26th year, QUEST has evolved from its initial founding as an IBM grant-funded initiative focused on quality to a highly competitive campus program encompassing product development, innovation, process improvement and data analysis. “The concept is to make the major more valuable by offering work beyond the discipline, outside the major,” says Program Manager Jessica Roffe. As many as 270 students apply for 90 spots annually. Eighty percent of students major in either engineering or business with the remaining 20 percent majoring in science.

“QUEST combines business with my bioengineering for an interdisciplinary approach to learning,” says Wolcott. “It allows us to collaborate with people who have different backgrounds to create strategic and effective solutions.”

The program includes three required classes and two electives covering topics such as systems thinking, multidisciplinary teams and innovation. The capstone project involves working in a team with a client to solve a technical problem such as one team’s focus on reducing burnout for health care practitioners. That collaboration extends outside the classroom. QUEST bolsters student resumes with six student-led organizations. Of those groups, QUEST Corporate provides field trips and networking opportunities, especially with program alumni.

“Students wanted to go beyond the classroom and projects and have more networking and site visits,” says Roffe. “Students plan activities, reach out to companies and set up visits.” The group has visited Under Armour, Booz Allen Hamilton’s Innovation Center, Leidos and Constellation Energy. Last year, the group traveled to Silicon Valley and met with professionals at Google, Tesla and start-ups. At press time, the group was looking forward to visiting the 3M Innovation Center in Washington, D.C.

Wolcott is co-leader of QUEST Corporate. “I loved the resources and chance to connect to alumni and extend connections beyond my four years at the University of Maryland,” she says. “Site visits give us the opportunity to learn about a company beyond the surface. For example, as we are planning for 3M, we see that the firm is involved in innovation, far beyond the Post-its and Command Strips we know.”

In addition to ongoing formal networking events and site visits, Wolcott also wanted to

Success, continued on page 9

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Above: Officers of Active Minds, a new club designed to support mental health awareness for students at Anne Arundel Community College. Left to right: Emma McCoy, vice president; Esther Kuhnert, president; Brooke Carneal, secretary. See article on page 6. Photo courtesy of AACC.