IBM/Total Quality Program 90s Flashback

Current QUEST students proudly identify as “90s kids” – the great age of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Beanie Babies, and Gushers candy. However, now approaching the program’s 25th anniversary in 2017, QUEST also has its humble beginnings in the 90s. In fact, back then QUEST was not called QUEST – it was known as the IBM Total Quality Program (IBM/TQ). In 1992, IBM launched an exciting opportunity, offering grants to colleges nationwide to start an undergraduate multidisciplinary program. And thus TQ/IBM at the University of Maryland was born – with its first cohort of students in 1993. Although the program initially was funded for five years, after the fifth year drew to a close, the University decided to keep the program due to its success, changing the name to Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams.

It might be hard to imagine the program back in the 90s, but there is no doubt that the spirit of QUEST is something shared even then and now.

The following video features students from Q5 at their QUEST Orientation in 1997:

This video is a segment on the IBM/TQ Program from the Maryland State of Mind in 1998:

We reached out to Brian Bender, a Q5 alumnus who graduated in Spring 2000 with an undergraduate degree in Accounting. Brian attended the QUEST Orientation featured above and remembers the filming of this video. He currently works at Crown Agents USA as a Senior Finance Manager. Brian shared his insights and takeaways from his time in the program:

Q: What were some of the main takeaways or lessons learned during your time in the QUEST Program, then known as the IBM Total Quality Program?

A: Working in a team environment. And even more important was the ability to work with people that may not think in the same manner as you do. Everyone brings their own set of skills and experiences to your team and project.

Q: What is your favorite memory from the IBM Total Quality Program?

A: My senior 490H project was revamping the flex straw made by Sweetheart Cup Company. We made several site visits and worked extremely hard to analyze their processes and revamp the engineering of the straws to save the company money. Working with a real world company, in a real world environment, set the stage for my career.

Q: How did the program help you in your career path?

A:  I spent 12 years doing consulting for government contractors before moving to an internal position. All of my consulting projects consisted of working with new sets of client personnel to solve a unique problem. Most of the projects required working in a team setting to get the job done. While there is more of a hierarchy structure in the real world environment, the challenges of a team still exist (planning time to meet, communication issues, etc.). Also, being able to analyze a problem from multiple angles was another thing I took away from the QUEST program. Understanding that there are costs, people, and different industries who all play a part in determining how you attack a problem. Some of the analytics come in to play as well, such as SWOT analyses and the use of Gantt charts.

Thanks to Brian for sharing his Cohort 5 memories! If any other alumni would like to share their memories from these videos, please reach out to us at!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply