UF ISE Revamps Undergraduate Curriculum to Enhance Student Experience

Over the last several years, the Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE) discipline has expanded into various multidisciplinary areas such as data analytics and health and human systems. As a result of this expansion, the University of Florida ISE department has recently completed an overhaul of the undergraduate curriculum offered to students.  

This revision began back in 2018 with the goal of developing a curriculum that was flexible and student-centered. The department’s main objectives included giving students the opportunity to customize their course structure to better accommodate their interests and increasing the breadth of ISE topics offered. The department also wanted the curriculum to allow for a flexible development of skills, while encouraging students to pursue additional certificates and minors, and adequately preparing them for careers in industry or graduate studies.  

“The expansion of our undergraduate curriculum in breadth and depth is intended to promote the competitiveness of ISE graduates for industry positions, which are primarily in manufacturing and production systems and, to some extent, operations research and human factors and ergonomics,” said David Kaber, Ph.D., ISE department chair. 

To accomplish this, the department organized ISE-specific courses into two groups: core and focus areas. Core areas cover the fundamentals of discipline, including operations research, lean production systems, decision support systems, and simulation and analysis, and introduce students to new subdisciplines such as Data Analysis for Industrial Applications and Human Systems Engineering.  

The newly proposed ISE focus areas cover an in-depth study of all ISE subdisciplines. Currently, the department offers three focus areas in Data Analytics and Operations Research, Health and Human Systems Engineering, and Production and Logistics Systems. Students are free to choose any one of these focus areas according to their interests and career-related objectives. 

The data analytics focus area is designed to develop student skills in applied statistics and use of software for statistical modeling to recommend optimal system design solutions. Industry is currently seeking engineers with the capabilities to handle and process massive data sets, to perform statistical aggregation and to deliver this information for management decision-making. 

Courses in human systems engineering will teach students how to apply human factors science to the analysis, design and evaluation of human-technology systems. The increasing prevalence of human and AI teaming in complex domains, such as healthcare, aviation, power systems, military operations and space, demands engineer capabilities to translate human-performance data to system-design solutions.  

The knowledge of production and logistics enables students to analyze, understand, and manage operations of manufacturing/production or service organizations through inventory control models, demand forecasting models, queuing models and more. The current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on world supply chains has further emphasized the critical importance of optimizing logistic systems and therefore the need to offer this area in the curriculum. 

In addition to their chosen specialization, students are also required to choose at least one course from each of the other focus areas. To provide various options to students, the ISE department increased the number of elective courses offered by 80%, as electives provide additional flexibility for students, allowing them to develop various skills in a myriad of areas.  

“The ISE curriculum revision defines a contemporary core for the degree program and emphasizes student specialization to stand out in a highly competitive job market. The students coming to UF have very high academic credentials, and they are seeking interesting, challenging and highly applicable curriculums as a basis for their careers,” Dr. Kaber said. “We need to be competitive in attracting these students to the ISE discipline and our department in order to address the demands of industry and to further the presence of ISE across a range of organizations.”