Course Snapshot: Problem Solving Leadership [SYSEN 554]

The third course in the problem-solving sequence offered by the School’s engineering division, this class builds on an understanding of the individual problem solver and problem-solving groups to help facilitate complex problem solving and the role of the leader within these groups. The course examines the domain of the problem, problem-solving processes, and the management of cognitive diversity and change. Students work individually and collaboratively on their approved projects, giving and receiving advice for their own and their classmates’ assignments.

“This course focuses on the intersection between technical and personnel leadership,” says instructor Kathryn W. Jablokow, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering. Jablokow believes it creates a nice synergy between the two aspects of today’s professionals who are increasingly becoming responsible for both technical and “people” issues. The course is geared to help students view and solve problems in ways they may have never considered in the past.

Five years ago, Jablokow was approached by some of her former students who took the series of courses and wished to continue working on similar projects. Thus began the Problem Solving Research Group (PSRG), which celebrated its fifth birthday and its fiftieth member last year. The group consists of faculty members from the School’s three academic divisions, faculty from other schools, former students, current students, military personnel, and corporate members. The group’s mission: collaborate to solve complex problems that are presented by members or outside organizations and businesses. PSRG works on a variety of projects, including military leadership training, invention assessment, and corporate issues.

Students working on degrees in systems engineering, information science, leadership development, and engineering management make up the diverse profile of the classroom. And just as diverse are the students’ management levels, from senior management and corporate vice presidents to recent college graduates.

Upon completing this course, students will have a more clearly defined understanding of problem-solving diversity within groups, and how it can be leveraged to make problem solving more effective. “[The course] offers students will acquire the ability to design and carry out practical applications of problem-solving theory, integrate the knowledge they acquire into real-world settings, and optimize their personal leadership roles within problem-solving groups.