Michael Kitz, who earned dual degrees in engineering and theology at Notre Dame in 1985, and an MBA from the University of Michigan, spent more than two decades in industry, focused on product development, marketing, and management. His globetrotting career included years at Procter & Gamble, Motorola, Honeywell, Chrysler, Goodyear Tire, and OfficeMax, where he was chief marketing officer, head of product development, and leader of a large sourcing operation in China.
Kitz returned to Notre Dame three years ago as associate director of the College of Engineering’s Integrated Engineering and Business Practices Program, a two-course elective series started in 2000 at the urging of the college’s advisory council to give undergraduates exposure to the business world. Sixty to seventy percent of engineering majors now take at least one of the courses.
“In my career, I’ve had a major interest in innovation, product development, design thinking and marketing,” he says. “Those topics are particularly important for entrepreneurs, so I was drawn to become involved in the ESTEEM program. I had a great desire to teach and to mentor. That was part of my role as a leader throughout my career.”
ESTEEM offers students both a broad knowledge base and significant practical experience, Kitz says.
“First, business fundamentals,” he says. “They learn what’s important to a business, how a business functions, the basics you might get in the first-year of an MBA program. Second, there’s this extremely strong focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, whether in a startup or a larger company’s intrapreneurship. The ESTEEM students leave with a much stronger toolkit, ready to embrace that. Third is the huge component of learning by doing. The biggest piece of that is the capstone thesis, but it also happens in the classes – business model canvas, design thinking and in my marketing class, among others. The students get out and do, they get out and try, they get out and fail, they get out and make changes. That skill set is extremely important in driving innovation.”
The students bring a passion for broadening their skills so they can benefit society.
“They’re a very impressive group,” Kitz says. “I love their passion to make a difference. They’re attracted to the program because they want to have an opportunity to create something. They start getting involved in creating and seeing the changes they can make for people. I see lots of joy. I had that in my career. The best things I did in my career were around creating things that were useful. I think that’s what’s driving these men and women – their passion about creating something good. And they have the tool set to go out and make it happen.”