QUEST Turns 20!
20 years is a significant milestone for our community. This milestone has given me an opportunity to reflect on where we came from, where we are now, and where we are going in the future. This occasion has also given me a greater appreciation for the contributions made by our predecessors.
In 1992 when the IBM-TQ Program (now QUEST) launched, it may not have been possible to forecast future success. In retrospect, however, hindsight is 20/20. How could the IBM-TQ program not succeed?
QUEST began with a few innovative principles that became a foundation for future success. First, undergraduate student learning is not contained within the span of the semester. From the first cohort of students, the IBM-TQ program had a rigorous curriculum that spanned the sophomore, junior, and senior years of an undergraduate student. As students progressed in their business and engineering majors (the science majors were added later), they progressed as a cohort of students until they graduated. I’m pleased to add that for many QUEST alumni, cohort learning continues beyond graduation to the present time. Second, faculty performance should be tied to student learning. Instead of instructors delivering content in their subject areas, faculty were encouraged to collaborate, innovate, and focus on student learning. This shift from faculty-centric to student-centric instruction allowed QUEST students to learn by doing (i.e. action learning) and do so in teams across disciplines. Third, the QUEST concepts of quality management and process improvement were applied to the program’s design and not just the content of the instruction. This last element meant that the QUEST program always strove to improve. While many things in QUEST have changed to improve the program, I’m pleased to see that these three foundational elements are still at the core of our QUEST mission.
I’m very happy that the occasion of QUEST’s 20th Anniversary has propelled us to focus on improving our community. Over the past several months we have reconnected with many QUEST alumni. Through cohort representatives, a very active QUEST Alumni Board, and great QUEST program staff, we have updated our alumni records and have rekindled QUEST ties. Through additional alumni events and opportunities for current students and alumni to connect, our QUEST community continues to improve in breadth and depth. Our current students are helping with all of efforts as well from our QUEST Student Organization, our recruiting and selections teams, and the many volunteers and students leader we have on campus. I often reflect how many in our community do their part to improve QUEST. It is very inspiring and I’m very thankful to everyone who contributes. Thank you!
To live up to the ideals set forth in 1992, QUEST must continue to improve going forward. No matter how good our curriculum, students, and program is, it could always be better. Within QUEST, we always want to be open to new ideas and innovate. Additionally, we want our current students to look upon QUEST as their defining undergraduate experience at the University of Maryland. Some of our current initiatives reflect these goals. This includes incubating student ideas beyond their coursework, involving students in the development and scoping of capstone projects, and strengthening our QUEST community through events like the 20th Anniversary Celebration on April 26, 2012.
As we move forward, I want to thank all those in our community who have contributed so much already. Our success today is a reflection of your hard work and dedication. Thank you and we hope to see you at the celebration in April!