Inspiring Students at the Illinois Tech Fall 2015 IPRO Day

| Shelley Stern Grach

One of the widely recognized strengths of the Illinois Tech (IIT) is the diverse student population. That remarkable quality was on full display at the Fall 2015 IPRO Day last week. Microsoft is proud to be a sponsor at this terrific program and my colleague Adam Hecktman and myself served as judges. If you or your organization are interested in helping students refine their business acumen as they tackle global challenges, I strongly recommend investing time and talent in IPRO Day at Illinois Tech. You will get an opportunity  to learn more about IIT students, the user-centered design methods they apply to problem solving, and the innovative solutions that create value for stakeholders. Since 1995, the Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program has brought together undergraduate students from all majors to work in interdisciplinary teams on projects that span engineering research, process improvement, sustainability, community engagement, venture development and other contemporary themes.


This year included an exciting shift for IPRO Day. In collaboration with Illinois Tech Career Services, the traditional IPRO Day experience was reimagined to better connect the talented students with high-caliber organizations by inaugurating the Fall 2015 IPRO Day Showcase – an interactive networking event. The IPRO showcase  involved exemplary teams with projects that emphasize a theme associated with user-centered design thinking:

  1. Technological Innovation: These projects focus on the research, development, demonstration, and/or deployment of new or improved technologies that can aid or change the way the world works.
  2. Social Innovation: These projects focus on new strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet the social needs of different elements which can be from working conditions and education to community development and health — they extend and strengthen civil society.
  3. Business Innovation: Your project introduces new ideas, workflows, methodologies, services or products that focus on the fields of entrepreneurship, new ventures and business.

I served as a judge for the Social Innovation track. Here are a few of the innovative ideas and approaches from the Illinois Tech students:


  • Rondayvoo—a social networking app specifically designed for IIT students to collaborate, socialize and network with other students, thereby avoiding the “sit in your dorm room” syndrome.
  • Unleashing STEMagination—an immersion program to include STEM resources and educational suggestions for the new 606 park and walkway.
  • Team Accessibility—working in partnership with the Adler Planetarium, this team is tackling the physical challenges of a large destination like the Adler Planetarium.
  • My personal favorite: Pitch Please: Safening Chicago’s Traffic Ways for Humans and Animals. This creative use of sensors providing a high-pitch frequency to deter animals from crossing busy streets in Cook County, thereby avoiding harmful collisions with ongoing traffic.

These are just a few examples of the IPRO program, which included over 50 creative examples of students working collaboratively—and scientifically— to solve important problems in local and global communities, using technology. Congratulations to all of the student teams at IPRO and a special shout out for the wonderful faculty and staff who helped design and orchestrate the day. While many were involved, a special mention to:

  • IPRO Director Jeremy Alexis
  • Director of Operations Thomas M. Jacobius
  • Director of Student Experience Rima Kuprys
  • Vice Provost Student Access, Success  & Diversity Initiatives Gerald P. Doyle

For more information, please email [email protected] or [email protected]

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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.