Seattle Area Alumni Make an Impact

June 27, 2019
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Seattle, WA – Sporting an ear-to-ear grin, Tauber Institute benefactor and Michigan alumnus Joel Tauber (BA '56, JD ’59, MBA '62) deplaned at Boeing Field, eager to meet with alumni from the institute that bears his name.

Joel Tauber says he loves connecting with “the fresh face of manufacturing” he sees in the community created by the Tauber Institute. As a University of Michigan supporter, Joel Tauber not only endowed the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, but has also served as an advisor for the President's Office, and recently pledged $1.75 million for business and engineering student scholarships in commemoration of the Tauber Institute’s 25th anniversary. A joint venture of the University of Michigan's College of Engineering and Ross School of Business, the Tauber Institute prepares future leaders in the field of operations through experiences Joel Tauber wished were available to him in school; Tauber Institute students tackle real world problems to test their academic skills, and to build the flexibility, resilience, and commitment to continuous improvement essential to success.

Vice President of Engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplane Programs and Tauber Industry Advisory Board member Ed Petkus (BSE-AERO '80) greeted Joel and Shelly Tauber at Boeing Field and introduced them to just a few of the Tauber Institute alumni who have made an impact at Boeing: ECFP Rotational Engineer Amy Goodell (BSE/MSE-ME '18), Director of NMA Interiors and Customer Engineering Sherri Gwizdala (MBA '09), Affordability and Systems Engineering Leader at Boeing Commercial Aircraft Baran Kocal (MSCM '10), Operations Senior Manager Katie Leikhim (MSE-IOE '07), and Product Development Manufacturing Engineer Martha Neubauer (EGL BSE-Chem/MSE-IOE '16).

Academic Impact in Industry

The Tauber curriculum made a lasting impression on these alumni. Baran Kocal credits the Factory Physics course taught by Wally Hopp and Roman Kapuscinski with instilling key fundamentals by pairing them with examples of direct application. “I benefited significantly from the Tauber curriculum and had several opportunities to apply my learnings to sophisticated aerospace production systems,” he said. “Among many other learnings, analytical tools I learned from Factory Physics class allowed me to make substantial improvements in reducing variability at key work centers, optimizing inventory-service levels, and designing effective systems with high focus on human element.”

Amy Goodell said she especially appreciated the opportunity to evaluate a wide variety of operations styles through the facility tours arranged by the institute. And Martha Neubauer believes the presentation skills she learned through the institute’s LeadershipAdvantage progam have been crucial to her success. "Tauber's Leadership Advantage series helped bring my soft skills to the next level and prepared me to lead dynamic and diverse teams,” she said, “I used to be a nervous presenter, but the presentation techniques I learned in Leadership Advantage and practiced throughout my Tauber project have made me a confident, compelling speaker."

Dynamic Community in the Field of Operations

That evening, Tauber alumni, students, and friends gathered in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood to meet with Joel and Shelly Tauber, exchange ideas about navigating operations challenges, and reconnect with the institute. Seattle-area companies represented at the event included Amazon, Avanade, Boeing, Blue Origin, Fortive, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Meddle, Microsoft, Retail Velocity, Shape Tech Group, Zillow, and Zirconia.

Tauber Institute Industry Director Ray Muscat and Associate Director Asli Aka came straight to the gathering from mid-project reviews for Seattle-area Tauber Team Projects. Muscat and Aka are both Michigan alumni, and Aka completed the Tauber institute program herself in 2005. Now they are working together with Engineering Co-Director Larry Seiford, Business Co-Director Damian Beil, Managing Director Diana Crossley and Tauber Institute staff - plus a host of faculty advisors from the Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering - to supervise the 14-week team projects that form the cornerstone of students’ Tauber Institute experience.

Six of this summer’s twenty-one team projects are based in the Seattle area. Each year, small teams of business and engineering students spend the summer working on-site for sponsoring companies to dive deep into problem solving, often uncovering millions of dollars of savings – as well as improvements in areas such as energy consumption, waste reduction, throughput time, and supply chain risk. While top global companies such as Boeing have sponsored Tauber Institute projects for two decades or more, the institute strives to provide an array of opportunities based on student interests and objectives, and is continually forming new industry partnerships.

Aka is excited by the contributions of the Tauber Institute’s growing alumni base to the evolution of the institute, and is already planning the next Seattle alumni event. “We were almost kicked out of the restaurant because everyone stayed past the event time! I was thrilled to see Joel so happy and hope that this event illustrated his legacy,” she said. “We want to make sure that our alumni feel connected to Tauber Institute. Our alumni help spread the word and introduce the Tauber program to new companies and industries that will be exciting to our students.”

How to sponsor a Tauber Team Project

More photos from 2019 Tauber Alumni Event in Seattle