UM Aero blends engineering with business education to teach students how to thrive as well as build in modern industries

The University of Michigan Aerospace Engineering Department is going beyond the nuts and bolts of engineering education by introducing essential aspects of business culture. Led by George F. Halow, Professor of Practice in Aerospace Engineering, the goal is to create a new generation of well-rounded engineers who can thrive in a fast-changing professional world.

Traditionally, engineering education has concentrated on, to no one’s surprise, engineering. Since that’s what it says on the tin, it’s obvious that an aerospace engineering curriculum should address things like aerodynamics, control systems, material sciences, and so forth. However, modern engineers need to operate in a global commercial environment where they need to master or at least understand business culture, skills, ethics, communications, and how to manage intellectual property.

George Halow, Professor of Aerospace Engineering

Drawing on over 31 years of experience with the Ford Motor Company, Professor George F. Halow has been working with the Michigan Aerospace Engineering Department Chairman Tony Waas since May 2019 to develop the necessary curricula to produce the skills and spirit of leadership and professionalism so needed in today’s educational climate. 

As part of this effort, Halow offered a new course in the 2019 Fall semester. Titled “An Introduction to the Aerospace Enterprise,” Halow completely revamped an already existing seminar series and turned it into a class with a three-pronged approach. The first of these concentrated on issues surrounding aerospace enterprises; the second on leadership, culture, and communication; and the third on careers in the aerospace field. 

In addition to the classroom work, Halow arranged for a  series of guest speakers from industry, academia, government laboratories, and more unconventional career paths – not only in the field of engineering, but also from the business world. 

expert in a classroom in front of a projextor
Dr. Juan deBedout, PhD and VP, Enterprise Engineering, Collins Aerospace, lectures Aerospace 285 students

According to Halow, this approach has met with considerable success and was well-received by the attending students. Halow himself received the Sigma Gamma Tau Aerospace Engineering Honor Society Silver Shaft Award for teaching excellence and engagement. In the future, the course will be offered in both the Fall and Winter terms aiming at increased enrollment from other engineering departments at UM. 

Another class to be offered by Halow in the Fall 2020 term is a four-credit systems engineering leadership course where students will work on real-world projects that they will design, build, test, and fly in team competition using industry-standard tools and processes. Going beyond the technical aspects, the students will be responsible for project management and business elements as well.

Professor Halow had a 31-year career at Ford Motor Company in product development, manufacturing operations, business and product strategy, technology strategy, and investment planning. He is co-author of US and German patents for on-vehicle data acquisition, buffering, remote transmission, and analysis.

Halow received his Bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering with a focus on aerodynamics from the University of Maryland, College Parkland a Master’s degree from Cornell University focusing on fluid mechanics and combustion. He also has an MBA from INSEAD (l’Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires) in Fontainebleau, France, where he specialized in operations and international business.


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