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Abstract (Summary)

Education is everything to the quality profession. It should be obvious that real, lasting improvement can occur only through education, whether formal or informal. Perhaps it could be argued that as goes education, so goes quality, since leadership derived from educational processes will provide direction for the future. Three education related areas are raised for discussion: 1. what it means to be a student branch, 2. issues and opportunities for student branches, and 3. innovations provided by student branches.

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Copyright American Society for Quality Jul 2002

*[Headnote]* Student branches could become one of the profession's best resources

ON THE ONE hand it is so obvious. Education is everything to the quality profession. Yet on the other hand it is as if we really do not get it.

We all seem to think we understand the significance of education in the

overall scheme of quality. Can there be any question about this significance in the change process or about the need to continually upgrade systems and for people to stay competitive?

It should be obvious real, lasting improvement can occur only through education, whether formal or informal. Yet are we taking the fundamental education question seriously? Perhaps it could be argued that as goes education, so goes quality, since leadership derived from educational processes will provide direction for the future.

I raise three education related areas for discussion. Broadly, the discussion is constructed within the context of developing knowledge and leadership for the future based on ASQ's stated mission of advancing "individual, organizational and community excellence worldwide through learning, quality improvement and knowledge exchange."

It is clear ASQ has a strong focus on education. But how can the Society collectively improve quality and education systems for the future and use student branches and other key resources more effectively to help in the process?

What does it mean to be a student branch?

You may be unaware of the basic student branch structure within your professional ranks.

ASQ student branches consist of groups of faculty and students formed around partnerships between educational institutions and local sections

of ASQ.

Branches do not just start on their own but are driven by one or more sections and educational institutions. Generally the branch idea starts within the university or community college. Educators then work to convince the local section to support the idea. The ability of a student branch to sustain itself financially with sufficient students is addressed in a proposal to the national body of ASQ through local and regional leadership.

One example of a student branch is the Northwest Ohio Consortia at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), which consists of two community colleges and one university. Growing out of local arrangements between two-year and four-year colleges created during the 1990s, this branch formation was led by Toledo Section 1006.1 Strong relationships existed between BGSU, Owens Community College in Oregon, OH, Terre Community College in Fremont, OH, and the Toledo Section.

Being a branch means having some financial assistance provided by the local section. The Toledo Section has annually provided about $800 to the BGSU student branch to help recruit new student members and provide some programming. The branch advertises its activities to quality professionals through the section newsletter and Web site and plans various programs with the section.

Annual scholarships supported by the section are commonly made available to members of the branch and others who are not necessarily members. The section co-sponsors two programs annually with the branch, one focused

on educational issues and held on the university campus.

It is also significant to note the section is a de facto advisory group to the branch and academic programs on quality at BGSU.

The BGSU branch was launched 1998, but held meetings among students, faculty and section members before that. Since 1998, the branch has held annual elections, hosted various events and functions, participated in national and regional meetings, helped facilitate curriculum change and provided other innovative activities.

The branch is an approved student organization at BGSU, operating under a charter drafted by students in conjunction with section leaders to comply with ASQ and university guidelines? The charter combines student branch rules and regulations from ASQ with requirements of chartered student organizations at BGSU.

Over the years, the branch has engaged in many significant activities, including industry based applied research projects funded by industrial sponsors in which students work under the tutelage of faculty and industrial mentors. As part of a broader effort in which students create portfolios, similar course work has been done, in part with student branch involvement, to define how to conduct and assess real project related work in all quality courses.

Because successful branch meetings have been conducted electronically during the past year, there is a proposal to establish an entire online quality learning community.

Issues and opportunities

Student branches provide several opportunities, many related to how to collectively use resources to increase knowledge related to quality

Particularly regarding branches, but also faculty and students in general, I suggest we are not using our vast educational resources in a wise and prudent manner.

Better connection with and development of student branches can provide a key starting point for students entering the quality profession. Some of the ways to accomplish this are to:

* Develop a journal related to quality education issues.

* Create the structure and infrastructure to facilitate support for branches.

* Consider a state level organizational approach.

* Engage faculty and students in national and regional meetings.

Discuss where quality fits within college curricula.

Develop a journal related to quality education issues. Are there others out there besides me who think we need a journal dedicated to quality and education issues? This effort could be undertaken by using existing

knowledge and expertise from other ASQ journals.

Surely there is sufficient interest among quality professionals to contribute to and help manage such an undertaking within ASQ. Publication of such a journal ought not to be limited only to academicians. It should instead combine the myriad professional strengths available from the broader ASQ organization and profession.

Create the structure and infrastructure to facilitate support for branches. Discussion is needed on how students and faculty are engaged in ASQ's structure and how branches, faculty and students currently let their voices be heard primarily through the local sections. But because section leadership comes and goes while priorities change, it can be difficult to keep a branch effective even under the best of conditions.

Structure and leadership should be put in place to better facilitate support for branches at the national level. ASQ should collect data and track trends and demographics of its branches. Leadership should be strategically looking down the road for best practices about students, faculty, curriculum and projects.

If the infrastructure permits it, branches should be able to facilitate a Web chat collectively or link their Web sites for conferencing. Branches should also provide a brief written annual report of actions to document progress for the collective future of the student branch movement. These reports could highlight innovations and could compete for best practices cash prizes.

Consider a state level organizational approach. Perhaps ASQ should consider a state level organizational approach that is compatible with the existing state, regional and national organization and state level quality awards. This organizational structure, with branches playing pivotal roles, could also help set up state meetings at universities or community colleges where branches are based. But national leadership is required to make this happen.

Engage faculty and students in national and regional meetings. To make the agenda at ASQ's Annual Quality Congress (AQC) sufficiently attractive to students and faculty, ASQ should consider a separate submeeting organized expressly for the exchange of views and for presentations of interest and relevance to branch issues.

Using the branch infrastructure, getting all faculty advisors and student leaders in quality together could have powerful results. Perhaps a criterion could be developed for the best student branch of the year, and a cash award could be presented to the winner. Or the cash award for innovation and best practices could be presented at AQC.

We need incentives for faculty to come to AQC. The cost is prohibitive, and unless we can offer at least a substantial reduction or other incentives, it will be difficult to engage faculty. Perhaps we could offer an admission reduction if students are brought from the branch. Students have traditionally gotten into AQC free, but faculty ought to have the ability to come as well, to build their knowledge along with students and other professionals.

Discuss where quality fits within college curricula. Two of the interesting questions about quality as part of higher education are where it fits and how it contributes to the change process. These questions may parallel what is going on in American industry as quality professionals continue to sort out their roles, which range from engineering to management.

Traditionally, quality may have best fit into colleges of business, engineering, technology or the like. But people who likely don't really understand quality, from fields such as healthcare, technical writing, criminology and education, are increasingly tapping into quality. This presents many challenges at the administrative level in educational institutions. It is also more difficult to attract students in these nontraditional fields to quality courses because the subject may not be well understood.

A student branch can be a very useful vehicle for bridging the gap between those studying quality as a career and those studying quality simply for knowledge they will apply to another career.


Quality education is currently facing many challenges and opportunities. The future will look very different from the present, as the following innovations are now in various stages of development:

* Online quality learning environment.

* Applied research linkages and improvement projects.

* Changes in core knowledge.

* Innovative curricula and best practices.

* National quality forum.

Online quality learning environment (OQLE). Quality coursework is increasingly being delivered through an electronic infrastructure. At BGSU, an OQLE has been proposed as a prototype program to meet all traditional needs of students in nontraditional ways.

This OQLE program would put a laptop into the hands of students and provide the electronic infrastructure for course work, advising, student meetings and other communications and activities.

OQLE practices and principles are currently being developed, and it remains to be seen whether ASQ could be involved in this way to bind all the university's campuses and students, particularly nontraditional quality students, together for seamless educational opportunities.3

This OQLE concept could be particularly important to the many nontraditional quality students who are more than 25 years old and working full-time. Nontraditional students frequently go first to a technical or community college, where they receive a two-year associate degree, before transferring to a fouryear institution. They are typically more serious and mature than traditional residential students

and often not as interested in extracurricular activities. Yet much remains to be learned about how to meet the needs of these students.

Electronic delivery of courses and services is already a reality. I am involved in a new online quality systems doctoral program consortium made up of BGSU and five other educational institutions:4

* Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg.

* East Carolina University, Greenvillle, NC.

* Indiana State University, Terre Haute.

* North Carolina Agricultural & Technological University, Greensboro.

* University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie.

The consortium is housed primarily at Indiana State, but has specializations at participating member institutions. The quality systems specialization is led from BGSU.

This online approach has been maturing over the past several years, and about 10 students are currently in the program.

In addition, student and faculty portfolios are being electronically posted to reflect stages of work.5,6

Applied research linkages and improvement projects. One way student

branches can assist in increasing collective knowledge in quality is to facilitate applied research projects with advisory committees and others.

In fact, quality principles applied by students individually and in improvement teams may represent one of the most significant areas for knowledge growth through student branches.

Although this effort would require a substantial paradigm shift from traditional educational methods, these projects can provide student teams the opportunity to work under the tutelage of mentors and faculty. Using online courseware systems, these projects have traditionally been carried out at various locations.

Changes in core knowledge. The quality body of knowledge, curriculum and course work now being used may not adequately guide the practices and functions currently in use in emerging areas of our discipline, particularly the nonmanufacturing service sector.

Academics must address this issue, guided by industrial and business mentors and students and by applied research projects dealing with such topics as the relationships of change and improvement in quality curricula and the extent to which and how quality education should be interdisciplinary.'I

I believe this change should include a discussion of the role of the quality profession in general education. Having education professionals possess a core knowledge in quality would provide the general public many of the same quality tools and approaches to doing all work. Core

knowledge taught as general education in colleges and universities would provide opportunities for change and proliferation of quality knowledge in all professions.

Similarly, we must determine what the high school curriculum in quality should look like. We have not even begun to address this important area of quality education.

Some believe quality principles handled in an interdisciplinary way could be one of the single best venues for applying mathematics and science to all curricula.10

Innovative curricula and best practices. Another area in which student branches can assist is in determining what constitutes best practices in curricula. This study must go well beyond simply identifying current practices. I believe ASQ should systematically seek out, identify and communicate what is happening in quality education. These practices should then be passed on in the form of best practices to everyone involved in quality education.11

To facilitate seamless transfer relationships between two- and four-year institutions, I propose special courseware.12,13 Student branches can lead this effort, using tools downloaded from the Internet along with new relationships, consortiums and portfolios demonstrating students' academic and practical knowledge and growth in quality knowledge.

National quality forum. The quality profession could lead efforts toward a national debate on education. ASQ's student branches and other

organizations could play a role through understanding of best practices in education. This could be a separate track at AQC.

Power in collective resources

There is much power in the collective resources of student branches. The challenge is to provide infrastructure and mechanisms through ASQ to capture the tremendous potential offered by students and faculty.

Although ASQ has made substantial strides in this direction during the past several years, much remains to be done. Perhaps the first step is to recognize we do not currently have systems in place to accomplish some of what I have addressed.

We must better develop the discipline, particularly the academic side of quality. This must be a purposeful and systematic effort aimed at growing knowledge further, quicker and better. Failure to do this will delay the realization of quality's full potential as a discipline. Or other disciplines may take the lead in addressing quality issues in the educational process.

Student branches already represent our future. They could become one of quality's best resources.


While the ideas for this article had been percolating for some time, Greg Watson, ASQ chairman of the board, motivated me to write it when he

spoke at a Student Branch/Toledo Section meeting at Bowling Green State University.

*[Sidebar]* Develop a journal related to quality education issues. Crate the structure and infrastructure to facilitate support for branches. Consider a state level organizational approach. Engage faculty and students in national and regio* meetings. Discuss where quality fits within college curricula.

*[Sidebar]* IF YOU WOULD LIKE to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board at, or e-mail them to


[Reference] 1. George MacRitchie and John W. Sinn, "The 2 + 2 Enhancement Process," Quality Progress, January 1998, pp. 55-58. 2. BGSU/Northwest Ohio Coalition Student Branch, ASQ Student Branch Constitution. 3. Online Quality Learning Community (OQLC). This is an

[Reference] electronic portal for all traditional functions for students engaged in quality related studies at BGSU, available at Click on "teaching," "course changes" and "no. 8 OQLC." 4. Quality Systems Specialization, Indiana State University Technology Management PhD. Consortia, Lead University, BGSU, available at /ConsortPhD. 5. John W. Sinn, "Electronic Course Delivery Questions and Issues: Context of Future University?" unpublished paper. 6. Faculty electronic portfolio system. This is a prototype of work designed to help define how to create portfolios in the future and what they may look like. Go to to learn more. 7. Darren Olson and John W. Sinn, "Quality Science at BGSU, Student-Based Research for Technology Transfer: Critical Element for Technologists," Journal of Industrial Technology, Vol. 15, No. 4 (online at 8. John W. Sinn, "How Good Is Our Education for QA?" Quality in Manufacturing, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 26-27. 9. John W. Sinn, "BS Degree Core Knowledge in Quality: Report of Funded Research Focused in Applied Quality Sciences," Proceedings of ASQ Annual Quality Congress, Orlando, FL, May 1997.

[Reference] 10. Dennis Recker, John W. Sinn and Kris Duwve, "Back to the Basics:

Science, Math and Technology," Quality Progress, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 31-33. 11. Brian Stitt and John W. Sinn, "QFD Case Study: Model Improvement Process in Education," Proceedings of 11th Quality Function Deployment Symposium, QFD Institute, Ann Arbor, MI. 12. Industrial Technologists' Toolkit for Technical Management. This includes 40 electronic tools designed to blend quality and productivity improvement for project applications. These can be viewed on the author's Web site at /colleges/technology/ qs by going to "teaching" and "courseware examples." 13. "+2 Quality Systems Specialization Undergraduate Electronic Programmatic Curriculum Assessment and Portfolio Systems," qs. Go to "teaching," "course changes" and "no. 7."

*[Author Affiliation]* JOHN W. SINN is a quality systems specialization professor in the College of Technology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He earned a doctorate in technology systems from West Virginia University. Sinn is a member of ASQ.

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