Department History

Full-text of history book (via ISU Digital Repository)

General Engineering (a predecessor to Industrial Engineering) Professor Forest C. Dana works with a student in a drafting class around 1934.

The department first offered an industrial engineering degree in 1956, but the core curriculum started way back in 1919. That’s the year an industrial engineering option became available for mechanical engineers. John O. Keller, a 1914 graduate of Pennsylvania State College’s industrial engineering program, came to Iowa State to direct the new program. Keller was one of the first students in the country to earn an IE degree.

In 1926 a general engineering (GE) curriculum was started, and in 1929 the Department of General Engineering (the predecessor to industrial engineering) was established with offices in Engineering Hall (now Marston Hall).

The GE curriculum consisted primarily of classes in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, as well as many classes in economics. There were only two GE courses (both personnel related) in the original curriculum.

IE Chair Joseph teaches a plant design class in the 1950s.

Frank Paine was the first department chair, serving in that position from 1929 until he died of a heart attack in 1942. Joseph Walkup was appointed the new department chair in 1942, staying until 1973. During his tenure, many changes were made, including moving the general engineering department closer to the IE concept. Accordingly, an IE option was prepared and eventually offered in 1946. By 1955, the ECPD Accrediting Committee recommended that the department change its name to industrial engineering. The Board of Regents accepted the recommendation, and the change was made on July 1, 1956.

IE Associate Professor John Jackman works with a student in the Material Handing Laboratory, in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

At that time, the department had 197 undergraduate students and three labs in Marston Hall. The curriculum was equally split between engineering and management through most of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. In 1989, IE became the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE), with more emphasis in the curriculum on manufacturing. Also that year, IMSE moved into the Engineering Annex, which allowed the department to increase the number of labs from three to six.

In 1999, engineering management was introduced as a new focus area to provide students with an opportunity to learn management principles. Also in 1999, IMSE moved again—this time to Black Engineering. That move increased the number of laboratory facilities available for students and faculty in the department to 16. In 2004, the department in collaboration with the College of Business introduced a new combined B.S. in IE and MBA program.

In spring 2014, there were 474 undergraduate students and more than 70 graduate students working toward an MS or PhD in industrial engineering. In addition, there were approximately 75 students in the systems engineering MEng program and enthusiasm is growing for the engineering management MEng program since 2013.

As the economy continues to become more global, so does IMSE. In addition, nearly 20 percent of IMSE students travel overseas to study as part of their work toward an undergraduate degree at Iowa State.

The department continues to reach a wider audience through courses offered by engineering distance education. Students can now earn an MS degree completely online. On-campus students find the online lectures very useful as well for reviewing difficult topics.

Increased collaboration has been at the forefront of the department as several new teaching grants and labs continue to improve the student experience. As a result, the department’s research productivity has grown strongly as well.

Students in IE’s metalcasting lab.