Technology & Management combines business, engineering

In 2004, Jeremy Stoppelman dropped out of Harvard Business School and co-founded Yelp, a $1.7 billion Internet giant which penetrates everyday lives of many.

Stoppelman's success might be attributed to his MBA education, but both he and co-founder Russel Simmons also graduated from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. Max Levchin, University alumnus and co-founder of PayPal, also helped with the creation of Yelp.

Stoppelman exposed himself to the blending of business and engineering in college when he took a minor offered by both the College of Business and College of Engineering: The Hoeft Technology & Management Program.

Although their success might be attributed to their MBA education, both Stoppelman and Simmons also graduated from the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois.

Max Levchin, University alumnus and co-founder of PayPal, also helped with the creation of Yelp. Levchin, a 34-year-old entrepreneur, exposed himself to the blending of business and engineering in college when he took a minor offered by both the College of Business and College of Engineering: The Hoeft Technology & Management Program.

According to Darcy Sementi, director of this two-year minor, the program developed out of the generosity of Leonard Hoeft, an alumnus of the College of Business. Hoeft credited his success to the opportunities he had in studying both business and engineering at the University, Sementi said. He made the first donation of $1 million to his alma mater to create an interdisciplinary minor that allowed both business and engineering students to work together.

“As I get older, I appreciate more and more what the University of Illinois has meant to me,” Hoeft said when giving the $1 million donation to the University, according to the College of Business website. “Without the education I got there, I could not have done what I did. So I wanted to give something back to the institution that has done so much for me.”

Based on this idea of interdisciplinary approach, the program has developed a unique curriculum. It offers three engineering courses for business students and vise versa, along with three other courses students of both majors take together. Upon graduation, students will finish an integrated project that has elements of both engineering and business.

“Business and engineers have to work together all the time in corporate America,” Sementi said. “It exposes (business students) to the way engineers think, and a lot of engineering students that come to this program aspire to become leaders in business.”

Stephen Ladner, senior in Business, thinks the program has provided him with a basic understanding of engineering, and more essentially, why engineers do what they do.

“There are a lot of aspects you don’t think about in your daily life that engineers have had a hand in, and as a business major you don’t really appreciate that,” Ladner said. “But having the classes and the courses in which we are working with the engineering majors, you see and start to think about that more.”

Andrew Bell, senior in Engineering, appreciates the opportunities of getting exposed to corporate sponsors of this program. Senior executives from major companies like Walmart, BP and John Deere will come to the program and work closely with the students.

“One of the benefits is that we get a lot more confident with people who are on the executive level,” Bell said. “One of our sponsors is the head of trading in BP, and he knows a couple of us by name.”

Bell also acknowledged the intangible skills he has learned from the business side, such as dinner etiquette, how to give business cards and how to pitch ideas to upper management.

In addition, Bell began to understand how business works beyond the technological level.

The program also offers a trip to China. Corporate sponsors invited students to visit their China branches, and this international experience helped them understand how business is conducted in a different culture.

“The trip to China with T & M taught me how to deal with Asian culture and business, and many of the things they taught us there were related to the respect of this uniqueness of Asian business,” Bell said.

The program recruits about 25 students from both tracks each year. Students who fit best for the program are those who display leadership and academic achievement, Sementi said.

Peter Ninchich, sophomore in Business, is preparing to apply for the program next semester. He believes he is qualified for the program because of his achievement and passion.

“I’ve involved myself in a lot of leadership activities on campus. I’ve worked hard to make an impact on the College of Business,” Ninchich said. “This is something I wanted to do since the very first semester.”

On Nov. 27, Sementi will host an admission information session for the program in Digital Computer Lab 1320.

The next Stoppelman could be among those in the room.

Xing can be reached at xzhuo2@dailyillini.com.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that Max Levchin was enrolled in the Hoeft Technology & Management Program. Actually, Stoppelman was enrolled in the program.