The Ultimate Real World Experience | Interdisciplinary Product Development

The Interdisciplinary Product Development (IPD) course is unique to UIC, and its claim to fame rings true: a 100 percent concentrated focus on teamwork and innovation.

The year-long curriculum offers a unique learning environment in which UIC students in business, design and engineering partner with corporate sponsors to generate new product innovation for the partner and a real-world educational experience for students. Through cross-functional teaming, conducting and applying customer research, and developing a product from concept to first-stage prototyping, students replicate the early stages of developing a new product in an organizational environment.

Jelena Spanjol, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing at the UIC Liautaud Graduate School of Business, is one of the professors teaching the IPD curriculum to MBA students.

“What makes IPD so unique is the interdisciplinary approach does not only play out in student team composition, but that the course itself is developed and taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty,” Spanol says. “Each step of the new product development process is team-taught in such a manner that each faculty member speaks to the same aspect of innovation from their own discipline's view.”

Chiranjiv Mukerji, a 2013 MBA candidate and the MBAA student organization president, says the best part of the IPD course is the opportunity to work in the technology industry and gather key market insights.

“The strength of the class lies in the collaborative learning between the various disciplines,” Mukerji says. “Additionally, we also get to apply key classroom concepts like product life-cycle analysis, forecasting and market segmentation.”

Students participate in both primary user research (observing and interviewing consumers) and secondary market research (analyzing databases), and use the knowledge gained to generate and develop new product concepts. Teams work closely with a corporate partner over the course of two academic semesters to develop the prototypes of the new product concept. This year’s corporate sponsors include Baxter and Cricket Wireless.  

Spanjol says one of the biggest benefits of the program is that working so closely with the corporate partner allows students to develop strong relationships with mentors within the company and build a strong portfolio of skills to showcase.

“When it comes to exploring opportunity spaces, for example, the faculty team discusses and guides student teams in learning about, applying and integrating research techniques such voice-of-customer (marketing), user research (design), technology space exploration (engineering) and others. This means that in each class session, students have access to the full interdisciplinary faculty team for guidance,” she says.

Maggie Hammond, a 2012 MBA/MIS joint degree alumna, says the IPD curriculum was one of the reasons she chose to enroll at UIC Liautaud.

“Having the opportunity to develop product ideas for an actual company was an invaluable experience,” Hammond says. “I had a great team and enjoyed having the opportunity to work on a cross-functionally with two industrial design students, two engineering students and three MBA students.”

In the end, it was the real world experience that committed her to the IPD curriculum and to UIC Liautaud.

“I wanted a course that would give me hands-on, practical experience, and that’s exactly what IPD provided,” she says.

For more about the IPD program, click here.



There are two sections starting this Fall 2012 semester. If you are interested in signing up for either section, please email Prof. Jelena Spanjol and Prof. Susan Varghese by August 10, 2012, with an updated resume and list of courses taken so far and planned for Fall 2012.

IPD 1 - Tuesdays, 2-5:30pm

Corporate partner: Cricket Wireless

Prof. Spanjol (Marketing) Prof. Scott (Engineering), Prof. Melamed (Industrial Design), and Prof. Bergh (Graphic Design).

Currently taking students for its waitlist.

BioEngineering IPD - Mondays, 2-5:30pm

Corporate partner: Baxter

Prof. Varghese, Prof. Kotche (BioEngineering) and Prof. Munson-Tharp (Industrial Design).

BioEngineering has 4 spaces for MBAs open.