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QUEST: 20 Years of Quality

Apr 26, 2012
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Each year, for the past 20 years, some of the University of Maryland’s best business, mathematics, engineering, computer science, and physical sciences students enter QUEST, a competitive

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multidisciplinary honors program that focuses on innovation, quality systems management, and teamwork. More than 300 alumni and corporate partners joined current students, faculty and staff to celebrate program’s 20th anniversary at a dinner and awards ceremony hosted by the Smith School at the Riggs Alumni Center on April 26.

When the program started in 1992, leaders at the University of Maryland and IBM laid a foundation for a cross-disciplinary undergraduate learning experience in technology and business. The goal was to improve quality and the program’s mission was to apply quality improvement and innovation practices to the program itself.

The university won a competitive grant from IBM to launch IBM/TQ, a multidisciplinary program that evolved into QUEST in 1998. It’s a true cross-campus partnership of the Robert H. Smith School of Business, the A. James Clark School of Engineering and the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

“At the time it was very innovative and really radical in the education space -- it brought together a team-oriented action-learning approach across disciplines,” said Joseph Bailey, associate professor and the current executive director of QUEST. “Since then we’ve held to the goals of the original vision of the program and we’ve really tried to create an incredible learning experience for our students across the engineering, science and business disciplines.”

Students enjoy a rich learning community and learn to solve problems through systemic thinking and a team approach, ending with a real-world project their senior year. The outcomes for students today echo those of the first cohort 20 years ago.

“In addition to the skill sets I learned in the program, the exposure to engineering courses and working cross-functional teams is something I never would have experienced as a business major at the time,” said Debbie Feinberg, an alumna of the program’s inaugural cohort and now a member of the alumni board that helped plan the anniversary celebration. “It’s made my career – I’ve used the tenets I learned in the program over and over again.”

The large turnout of past and present QUEST participants to celebrate the program’s anniversary is evidence for the legacy the program leaves and the impact on alumni career paths. The ballroom at Riggs Alumni Center was ringed with posters displaying photos from each of the 20 student cohorts. The alumni and students mingled before taking their seats to hear from former and current program leaders, enjoy dinner, and witness the current class of graduating senior receive medals to honor their accomplishments.

This year’s graduating 55 seniors are part of the program’s 17th cohort. Many have landed jobs with top employers, including Amazon, Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst and Young, and Microsoft.

QUEST by the numbers …

  • Students who have been part of IBM-TQ/QUEST: 1,007
  • Schools who applied for the IBM grant: 120
  • Schools who received the IBM grant: 10
  • Original grant programs still in existence today: 1
  • Schools/colleges involved in QUEST in 1992-93: 2
  • Schools/colleges involved in QUEST in 2011-12: 3
  • Students who were in Cohort 1: 40
  • Female engineers in Cohort 1: 2 (5%)
  • Students who are in Cohort 20: 66
  • Female engineers in Cohort 20: 11 (17%)
  • Students who participated in study abroad with QUEST: 48
  • Countries visited by QUEST: 3
  • Members of the QUEST Alumni Board (QAB): 18
  • Corporate sponsors of the 2011 Senior Conference: 21
  • Current QUEST electives: 22
  • QUEST graduates who played in the NBA: 1

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.