IBE students posing at Root Insurance headquarters

In 2014, The Ohio State University’s Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) Honors program — one of the first interdisciplinary programs at Ohio State — recruited its first cohort of students.

Since then, the program has produced highly sought-after graduates with both engineering skills and business acumen, creating an alumni network that spans from New York City to Silicon Valley and beyond.

As an interdisciplinary program co-managed by the College of Engineering and Fisher College of Business, IBE students graduate with a major in either engineering or business and a minor in the other discipline. While at Ohio State, they immerse themselves in interdisciplinary courses and real-world projects, but they also consider themselves ambassadors for the program’s future.

In October, finance and economics major Matthew Young shared with high school students and their parents the impact the program has had on him.

“Through all our diversity in coursework, we try to create students who have technical skills, problem-solving abilities, an innovative spirit, eloquent personal skills and the ability to foster community,” Young said.

IBE students in the classroom
Jim Sonnett speaks to IBE students as part of the program's Innovation Leadership Summit.


IBE students also take classes and seminars that offer unique experiences and cornerstone projects.

Examples of these experiences include a pair of signature events during the past two semesters. In the fall, IBE students engaged with Root Insurance, one of Columbus’ most successful tech startups, in a case competition designed to provide recommendations regarding which growth opportunities the company might pursue.

Members from all four cohorts participated, splitting into groups diverse in age and discipline. After receiving a brief on Root’s business problem, groups spent two days crafting possible solutions and getting feedback on their ideas from employees before presenting to executives. The ensuing competition allowed students to exercise the collaborative and technical skills gained from their IBE coursework in a startup environment.

“Working with the Integrated Business and Engineering teams was a truly illuminating experience,” said Root Insurance Product Manager Derek DeHart, one of the competition’s organizers. “Everyone walked away from the final presentations impressed by the rigorous problem-solving and inspired by the possibilities.”

In January, IBE students explored how executive leadership skills can help spur innovation in a full-day seminar that connected them with Jim and Judy Sonnett. Jim Sonnett served as vice president of science and technology at Battelle, and has been a supporter of the IBE program; Judy Sonnett was vice president of human resources at Hexion Specialty Chemicals.

Both events were organized and led by Michael Leiblein, founding academic director of the IBE program.

“Professor Leiblein and the Sonnetts spoke about how to utilize our skills in multidisciplinary teams to create value, and how not to destroy the progress we’ll make towards breakthroughs with infighting and complaining,” Young said. “This program encapsulated the IBE mindset, which combines the technical skills of engineering with the soft and technical skills of business to not only create the next life-changing product or service, but to make it a financial success. Being able to understand how to foster an environment that accomplishes this goal is what I was looking for in a program.”

Equipped with those skills, IBE alumni have graduated and been placed in various roles at leading companies, including Battelle, Boston Consulting Group, Cardinal Health, Drive Capital, General Electric, Honda, JPMorgan Chase, L Brands, Marathon Oil, McKinsey & Company and P&G, among others.

“It is gratifying to work with this group of highly motivated students. The analytical and critical thinking skills developed in our program as well as the exposure to problem solving approaches from multiple disciplines provides our students with a unique and valuable perspective,” Leiblein said. “It has been rewarding to see our students earn so many awards on campus, gain entrance to prestigious graduate schools, and take on leadership roles in prominent firms.

For Young, his IBE experience has provided him with insights into how ideas become breakthroughs, as well as the interdisciplinary teamwork and leadership skills to turn an idea into a product.

“IBE has given me a perspective and mindset that allows me foster breakthroughs that change the world and create financial successes. If you can’t make a breakthrough a financial success, it won’t become a success at all. IBE helps solve this conundrum.”

The Ohio State College of Engineering contributed to this story.

IBE has given me a perspective and mindset that allows me foster breakthroughs that change the world and create financial successes.

Matt YoungStudent, Integrated Business and Engineering program


Michael Leiblein Professor
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