Engineering at Illinois to launch degree program in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship


Bachelor’s degree coupled to existing engineering degrees will be the first of its kind.

Engineering at Illinois plans to offer a new dual-degree program in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship for students in engineering, computer science, and physics. The ILEE degree will give engineers the world-class technical expertise that they have always received from Illinois’ Top 5 engineering program, along with a deeper set of innovation and leadership skills. Students will earn the ILEE degree as a second bachelor's degree while completing their degree in one of the College of Engineering's traditional disciplines. It is not a major to which they will directly apply on their application to Illinois.

“Engineering at Illinois is known for a variety of firsts—the first widely used web browser, the first practical visible LED, the first uses of medical ultrasound. And it is exciting to add our new degree in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship to that list,” said Andreas Cangellaris, dean of the College of Engineering.

“Those technical achievements are a testament to our engineers’ ability to identify problems and lead the teams that solve them. With this new degree, we are building those characteristics into our students’ educations yet more aggressively.”

The ILEE degree grows out of a host of courses and programming that have been offered by the College’s Technology Entrepreneur Center since 2000. Today, more than 1,000 students take at least one TEC course each year, and participation has doubled in just the last five years.

Thriving companies like Green Light Planet and IntelliWheels were founded by students who took advantage of the courses and programs of the Technology Entrepreneur Center.

“Illinois engineers are innovative leaders and entrepreneurs,” said Andy Singer, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of TEC. “A bachelor’s degree in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship formalizes and enhances the focus on this. This degree will help teach the skills our students need to guide companies and projects large and small, to start new ventures, and to be pioneers in any environment.”

Project-based, experiential learning will be at the heart of the ILEE degree. These courses and experiences will take place all over Campus—in the Grainger Engineering Library’s new IDEA Laboratory, in facilities that support student-led and faculty-supported programs like Illini Motorsports, or in the campus Design Center that is currently being planned.

“As we said when we launched our Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows program last year, we are creating a new era of embedded entrepreneurship in Engineering at Illinois. Today’s students are already heavily investing their time and energy in entrepreneurship and innovation as they study engineering. It is our job to amplify that and make sure our students can use that energy to have world-changing impact,” Cangellaris said.

Illinois’ bachelor’s degree in Innovation, Leadership and Engineering Entrepreneurship was approved by the Illinois Faculty Senate in March and the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in May 2016. The Illinois Board of Higher Education will consider it in the coming months. The program will launch after IBHE approval.