An Open Letter to the ISyE Department

When asked to write about my experience having been an Industrial and Systems Engineering student at the University of Minnesota, I’ve found myself, for the first time, truly reflecting on my time in college.


My perspective on this topic is somewhat unique. I’ve never experienced another department at the University of Minnesota enough to make a fair judgement, so I can’t really speak to the differences between the Industrial and Systems department versus the rest of the University. And I don’t think that would be of much use as no matter what the diploma says, you’ll be a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and that is what is most important in all of this.

That being said, my time in the Industrial and Systems program was only a matter of three years. So I’d like to take some time to compare those years to that of my freshman year of college. Coming from a college with an enrollment of about 2,000 students near my hometown, the contrasts couldn’t be more stark. I vividly remember sitting outside of class one day in my first semester thinking, “this place is gigantic” and the associated emotion of feeling like I’ve become lost in the shuffle of students.

What would follow, however, is the acceptance and feeling of belonging as I became more familiar with the ISyE department, its students, and its staff. The very fact that I am choosing to compare this department to that of a home-y, small, liberal arts college should be considered a compliment in itself, but it’s more than that.

The level of community is hard to beat: the interconnected student groups, the willingness of professors to reach out, assist, and be there for the students (no matter the issue), and the glaringly evident notion to set their students up for a life of learning is unmatched. If there is any question about the community you’ll be joining, don’t hesitate any longer, you’ll be joining a motivated group that knows we’re all in this together.

Technical Gain

This letter wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t discuss the hard skills that I’ve gained since joining this program. When I had made the decision to transfer after my freshman year, I had to make a decision. Either go into business or go into engineering. I knew I had a passion for people and business, but I also knew I could be challenged and succeed in engineering. Industrial and Systems strikes that balance perfectly for me, I now see myself as a “business solver”, which will give you infinitely more value in the working world, if you choose that path like I am.

If you’re looking for somewhere to grow and come home to old friends telling you how much you’ve changed (in a good way), this program, and the University as a whole, is a perfect fit. The broad array of topics, and the depth at which you will go into each is difficult to beat anywhere else in the University. Each of the classes within the curriculum will intellectually stimulate you in a different and challenging way, and they will pique your curiosity to spend time outside of class to learn more.

To take this a step further, I’d like to talk about the ISyE department’s agility. I’ve been reading a book recently that speaks of the societal shift from a push society to pull society. What does this mean in the context of this major? In terms of a push society, the curriculum is pre-defined, classes are routine, and professors focus their time on their research. Rigidity is predominant.

In the context of society as a whole, our world moves at a much faster pace. Information passes freely, and developments are had every day. How does the ISyE program fit into this world? Perfectly. Their agility and ability to go continually refine what each class focuses on should be seen as an absolute advantage for you, as a student. The ability to adapt quickly to the next programming language or the new IE tool for solving a problem will serve students as they go out into the fast paced world upon graduation. What you’ll learn isn’t pushed to you, if you want to write a script in Julia as opposed to R, Dr. England will accommodate you. Would you rather spend four years learning information that will be of value upon graduation, or information that was slow to adapt and is four years behind? In our digital society, four years is a long, long time.

In Closing…

Ultimately, if you want to learn how to think critically and effectively when given a challenging problem, this program is for you. If you want to be a part of something bigger, and a tight-knit community that is hell-bent on improving each and every day, this program is for you. I owe much of my future successes to this program, they’ve given me more than I can imagine: an effective way of thinking, new interests, heightened curiosity, lifelong friends, a job (thank you Dr. England!), and one absolutely unforgettable experience.