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Ford, U Michigan-Dearborn assessing faculty internship results with eye on expansion

By David Schwartz
Published: October 3rd, 2017

Industry-sponsored research managers at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Ford Motor Company are reviewing a first-of-its-kind internship program they launched this summer, which placed UM faculty members inside the automaker’s operations for four months to work alongside and discuss innovations with like-minded researchers there. If the reviews continue to be as good as they have been so far — the partners use phrases like “very positive” and “very excited” — both parties plan to expand the internship concept moving forward, both together and with other partners.

The inaugural Ford Faculty Internship program ran from May through the end of August. “We plan on working with Ford to survey both the faculty and Ford researchers to understand what worked and what needs tweaking and ultimately to make a decision whether to continue the program,” reports John Cristiano, PhD, director of research administration in the UM-Dearborn Office of Research & Sponsored Programs. “My initial conversations with faculty who participated were very positive in terms of the networking and identification of collaborative research opportunities.”

For its part, Ford says it’s pleased with “faculty interest and participation” in the UM-Dearborn internship collaboration, but not yet certain about the mechanics of managing more such programs. “To measure the program’s success, we plan to survey participants at both Ford and UM-Dearborn” about their experiences and about the program itself, reports Amy Skehan, the automaker’s university program manager with its External Alliances, Research and Advanced Engineering group.

Skehan will talk to the Ford leads in person to find out what they thought could be done to make the internship program even better. “This is a new program,” she emphasizes, “so measuring outcomes will be critical for making a case for its expansion. So far, we are very excited about the results.”

UM-Dearborn’s Cristiano notes, too, that the final assessment of the first iteration of the program won’t be complete for some time. “The true success and effectiveness of the program won’t likely be known in the short term,” he says. “The goal is to create relationships and an understanding between faculty and Ford researchers. Initially, the connection is the result of a common technical interest, with the time spent together leading to faculty developing an understanding of the challenges and research problems. Conversely, the Ford researchers gain an understanding of the capabilities of the faculty.”

He adds: “In my opinion, the success and effectiveness of the program will be measured by both the breadth and longevity of the relationships, as well as the productivity. We know what Ford proposals are submitted for funding and will track the ones involving the summer interns.” A detailed article on the Ford Faculty Internship program appears in the September issue of Industry-Sponsored Research Management. To subscribe and get the complete article, and also receive a $100 discount on the already-low subscription price, CLICK HERE

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