Skip to content

Khojandi Named Faculty Fellow for Heath Integrated Business and Engineering Program

Anahita Khojandi

Anahita Khojandi, associate professor in industrial and systems engineering, is the new Heath Faculty Fellow for the Heath Integrated Business and Engineering Program, joining Russell Zaretzki, counterpart Heath Fellow from the Haslam College of Business.

The Heath Fellows take a lead role in cultivating connections across the business and engineering colleges. The fellows, like the program itself, are supported by Ralph Heath, a UT graduate of electrical engineering in 1970 and with an MBA in 1975 who saw the possibilities that came with learning from both the business and engineering disciplines during his long career with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

“We are honored to have Professor Khojandi in this vital role,” said IBEP Director Bob Buckner. “She brings valuable insight as we welcome our seventh cohort of business and engineering students.”

“I’m honored to be chosen to serve in this important role,” said Khojandi. “It’s a pleasure to be a part of this program which intentionally and purposefully introduces students to various aspects of engineering and business to better prepare them to contribute to the grand challenges that our society will need to deal with in the future. I would like to work with Bob, Russ, and others to continue the great success of the program and serve the needs of our students and our community.”

Khojandi joined the Tickle College of Engineering in 2014 and has distinguished herself through her teaching, numerous impactful research projects, and as director of the college’s Reliability and Maintainability Engineering Program. She received her PhD in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include AI and decision-making under uncertainty and partial information, with applications to a wide range of high-impact societal problems in healthcare, manufacturing, nuclear engineering, environmental engineering, and transportation systems, among others.

Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and Tennessee Department of Transportation, among others.

Khojandi is just the second engineering faculty member to hold the fellowship, following longtime industrial and systems engineering Professor Rupy Sawhney, who died in December 2022.

Buckner Selected as New Heath IBEP Director

The Heath Integrated Business and Engineering Program (IBEP) at UT began in 2017 as a way to have a combined educational experience for students in both the Haslam College of Business and in the Tickle College of Engineering.

Bob Buckner

Having someone who understands and recognizes the importance of both is critical to its leadership, a trend that will continue as Bob Buckner has been chosen for the role.

“I feel honored and privileged to be trusted with the task of helping shape the leaders of tomorrow as they journey through their educational path,” said Buckner. “As someone with experiences in business and with science and engineering, I know the value and the benefits of understanding aspects of both.”

Buckner earned his bachelor’s in computer science in 1988 and earned his MBA in marketing and management in 1994, both from UT. He has built a career in software development and management, including being with The Vanguard Group since 2001, where he most recently was a technical program manager.

“We’re happy to have Bob taking on this role, and are looking forward to his plans and ideas for the program,” said Tickle College of Engineering Dean Matthew Mench, the Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair in the college. “Being able to draw upon his own experiences in the technical and business worlds will serve him well as he prepares our students to be leaders of tomorrow.”

Buckner was selected following a search chaired by Russell Zaretzki from the Haslam College of Business and Rupy Sawhney from the Tickle College of Engineering, both of whom are Heath Faculty Fellows.

Those positions, like Heath IBEP itself, are supported by Ralph Heath, a UT graduate of electrical engineering in 1970 and with an MBA in 1975 who saw the possibilities that came with learning from both the business and engineering side of things during his long career with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

“The Heath IBEP program provides unique opportunities for engineering and business students to interact with one another, learn from faculty and executives with experience in both fields, and acquire the ability to analyze complex problems through the lens of both disciplines,” said Stephen L. Mangum, Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair and dean of the Haslam College of Business. “This hire keeps with the vision that Ralph Heath has for the program and will continue its legacy of preparing our students for future success.”

Buckner will begin in the role January 1.

Pile Stepping Aside as Heath IBEP Director

Mary Pile, who has served as the inaugural in Heath Integrated Business and Engineering Program (Heath IBEP), has announced her departure as head of the program, effective Friday, September 3.

She will be taking a new position at DeRoyal Industries, a biomedical manufacturing company for whom she had worked as an engineer for the better part of a decade before joining Heath IBEP.

“A few weeks ago, I had a lunch with a previous coworker to be a resource for her granddaughter as she started at UT,” said Pile. “A few weeks later, I received a job offer for a great opportunity at DeRoyal. I was able to choose the role I wanted, which coincidentally is in marketing and product development. This role flexibility is an example of some of the things we stress through Heath IBEP.”

She said that this particular opportunity piqued her interest because it involves her taking on a role that draws upon some of the same elements at the intersection of engineering and business as Heath IBEP.

Professor Rupy Sawhney and Associate Professor Russell Zaretzki, Heath Fellows in the Tickle College of Engineering and Haslam College of Business, respectively, will serve as interim co-directors. The two have plenty of experience, even having served as co-leaders of the program once before, while the search that resulted in Pile being made the first director was being conducted.

Pile will continue as an instructor for select Heath IBEP courses, which she said was on such secure ground that she could step away and feel that it would continue to thrive, pointing to the placement of the first two cohorts of students.

“I’m teaching the Haslam Leaders Professional Development course this semester and will still be involved in the program on a voluntary basis because I am committed to each of our students and to the success of the program,” said Pile. “I’m thankful for having had this opportunity, and I am excited to see the leaders our students all will become.”

Both Haslam College of Business Dean Stephen Mangum and Tickle College of Engineering Dean Matthew Mench remain steadfastly committed to the program, noting that it is “on solid grown and firm footing.”

Heath IBEP Class of 2021 Graduate Information

The Heath IBEP Class of 2021 has officially graduated. We were excited to be able to host our second certification ceremony and graduation celebration in person this year. We held an intimate gathering of students and faculty at the UT conference Center in May. Students heard from key program contributors including Haslam College of Business Associate Dean Lane Morris and Executive Steering Committee Member, Ralph Heath.

Our graduates of the 2021 Cohort achieved a great deal during their time at the University of Tennessee:

  • 100% participated in relevant work experience through internships
  • 100% were Volunteers of Distinction
  • 76% graduated with Honors
  • 6 Completed University Honors Programs
  • 4 double-majored

Here is a view of where our students started (black) and where they are going post-graduation (orange).

You can see that students are spreading out across eight states plus one student will be traveling to Australia.

Below is a snapshot of some of the companies that have hired students from this cohort. Industries include aerospace, technology, consumer goods, construction, consulting, and others.


Some first destination placement data on students in the 2021 Cohort:

  • Average Starting Salary: $60K
  • Industry/Graduate School Placement Rate: 94%
  • Grad Schools: University of Tennessee & Purdue

The 2021 cohort has continuously embodied the Volunteer spirit and has grown into true servant leaders. We are so excited to see how our students continue to grow and be successful in the future. As a Heath IBEP contributor, we encourage you to continue participating in the program to help enrich our student’s development.


Heath IBEP Spring 2021 Projects & Site Visits

The spring semester has been busy for Heath IBEP students. Engaging in projects throughout their many required Heath IBEP courses, they also attended their first ‘virtual’ site visit with Amazon.

Students in Business Administration course were tasked with improving meeting efficiency at Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company. Students interviewed Boeing senior leadership, executives in various industries, as well as UT faculty to identify tools and best practices for high-quality meetings. They brainstormed and finalized creative solutions and accompanying procedures and training for Boeing for review and implementation.

Students led projects in Engineering Fundamentals course centered around collaborative peer education and student-developed solutions.

Peer-led education project topics ranged from project management, business & marketing plans, product and process analyses, as well as, financial planning. Each team was responsible for identifying appropriate tools and resources and constructing a slide deck, with case studies and activities, to present to their colleagues in a manner expected in a professional workplace.

Proposals for the Customer Solution teams were pitched before the semester began, with four projects and customers chosen. These included providing safe and reusable chargers for patients at UT Medical Center; creating a platform and plan for providing affordable, customizable drones – a new venture pitch; analyzing and solving sales challenges during COVID for a local, warehouse-based lighting supplier; and aggregating product knowledge and prioritizing market opportunities for an emerging technology manufacturer.

Our Seniors participated in Tickle College’s Engineering Fundamentals Interdisciplinary Design Project course and completed a variety of projects sponsored by industry. To learn more about their projects and solutions, please follow the link HERE.

Our Amazon site visit was the first opportunity we had since the beginning of the pandemic to expose our students to a distribution facility. With most companies shutting down tours and closing their doors to visitors, we were lucky to find a chance for an inside look. Amazon created a virtual experience that they were willing to share with the public which included a chance to see and tour three of their plants which all perform in different manners, from manual distribution to AI. Our students heard from facility and operational management in Tennessee, Indiana, and Michigan. At the completion of the tour, the Chattanooga distribution center allotted time for our students to meet with senior executives. They were able to ask questions and have a personalized event specific to Heath IBEP.

Heath IBEP Mentorship Program

Heath IBEP is now in it’s fourth year of its’ mentorship program. This has been a key addition to the integrity of the program. Our student’s have had the opportunity to meet 1:1 with executives from a wide range of industries. Part of our success has been matching students based on their interests rather than just their majors. Students meet with their mentors on a monthly basis at a minimum and more often meet with them multiple times a month. They put together goals and development plans that they then discuss and map out with the help of their executive mentor.

To join us as a mentor, please submit your information HERE.

We wanted to highlight some student’s on what this program has meant to them:


Thomas Andersen (2022 Cohort):

“The Heath IBEP Mentorship program has given me the opportunity to gain real world insight into how to better promote myself and gain opportunities. My mentor has provided me many opportunities including attending meetings for the East Tennessee Economic Council where I was able to network with local business leaders and get early looks at major projects going on in the area. It has been invaluable to have an executive mentor to help guide me through the process of improving my resume and ultimately securing an internship for this summer.”

Brayden White (2022 Cohort):

“With aspirations to go far in the public accounting industry and later become a CFO of a publicly-traded company, the IBEP mentorship program has been an amazing opportunity to pick the brains of a partner of a company. Specifically, the ability to get experienced leadership advice on how to better manage people and help me focus my efforts on a more defined career plan has been invaluable in my college career. Furthermore, being able to network and gain experience talking to a business professional, has really improved my communication, networking, and interviewing skills. Lastly, my mentor has served as a great resource for additional advice on subjects including reading, technology, recruiting process, and the general accounting/finance community. I hope to continue my relationship with my mentor through the Master of Accountancy program at UTK and into my future career.”

We want to thank our Heath IBEP contributors for continuously supporting our program.

Heath IBEP Graduating Class Statistics

Heath IBEP’s inaugural class is now well into it’s first year out in the workforce and our students have had an amazing experience at UT, contributing much of their new success to their participation our the program.

Having the opportunity to learn across different disciplines has prepared them in ways that new employers are excited to see! Our students have proven themselves and set themselves apart, continuously showing the success of UT’s signature program.
We are proud to announce the following statistics about our 2020 Cohort:











100% of our students were placed upon graduation










Students achieved high salaries amidst the pandemic








The average starting salary of Heath IBEP students exceeded the average salaries of students graduating from Haslam and Tickle Colleges










Heath IBEP graduates are increasing their impact by accepting positions outside of the state

Fall 2020 Student Projects

The Heath Integrated Business & Engineering Program gives students the opportunity to combine in-depth strategy & decision-making processes. Each of our courses is designed to teach students the fundamentals of where/how business and engineering cross-sect. With real world projects students are introduced to leadership and communication skills that help prepare them for future employment. The ability to seamlessly operate across business and engineering divisions reduces ‘silos’. Companies lend their time to our program by either creating a project or giving our students an existing issue for them to work through. Working in small groups, students gain an understanding of working in teams across majors to create solutions. This past fall our sophomores and juniors both participated in team based projects:

Engineering Fundamentals – EF203 (Sophomores)

Our students broke into 11 separate groups of two wherein they picked a problem of their choice and worked together to create a solution. Groups consisted of an engineering student and a business student. Projects varied from working through issues of race/bias in the workplace to apps specialized in dealing with medical plans. Our student’s first dive into working across colleges & majors was a great success with many new perspectives gained and a foundation laid for their next two years in Heath IBEP.


Business Administration – BUAD 300 (Juniors)

The Heath IBEP Junior cohort worked on two projects in Fall 2020.

The first project for Proctor & Gamble was related to the effects of COVID-19. Students analyzed changes in customer buying habits and P&G’s supply chain and distribution. Small student groups looked at how P&G could modify their sales, marketing, supply chain, and manufacturing strategies to align with the current COVID-19 environment.

The second project detailed the creation of a new electric car charging station on UT’s campus. This project included a marketing, finance & accounting, and implementation team. The goal was to create a functioning business plan on a new charging station that would generate higher usage and more revenue in comparison to UT’s current charging stations. Students worked in small teams on the creation of their business plan and presented their completed idea to members of UT’s Parking and Transit Services, K.U.B (Knoxville’s Utility Service), and Seven States Power Corp.

Some of our students will be continuing this project on their own

Donnie Smith to Speak on How to Use a Mentor

Donnie SmithDonnie Smith, formerly Tyson Foods’ president of North American operations, will speak to the 2020 cohort on Friday, October 3rd, on the topic: How to use a mentor. As a member of Tyson Foods’ enterprise leadership team reporting to President and CEO Noel White, Donnie is responsible for the overall international growth strategy of the company, its global business models, all overseas operations and Cobb-Vantress, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods.



He also leads food safety; research and development; health and safety; procurement; distribution; and continuous improvement for the company.

Donnie first joined Tyson Foods in 1982 and soon after became a poultry plant manager. In the following years, he served in various roles with increasing levels of responsibility progressing to a poultry complex manager and supply chain director. He has served as Tyson Foods’ president of prepared foods, customer and consumer solutions, and as senior group vice president of poultry and prepared foods.

As president of North American operations, he led all operational aspects of the business for poultry, fresh meats and prepared foods, and shared responsibility for the international export business. He also was responsible for continuous improvement initiatives for the company.

Donnie is a former member of the executive committee of the National Chicken Council’s board of directors and a former member of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association. He has a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Pepsico Presents Case Study

On Monday, September 26th, students from the 2021 and 2022 cohorts had the opportunity to attend a case study presented by Pepsico in the Haslam Business Building and were provided with pizza and other Pepsico snacks and drinksAttendees heard from Pepsico employees, who were also University of Tennessee alumni. They were split into different teams, and both cohorts had the opportunity to interact with one another for the given problem. 

The case study was based off a real-world project that some of the employees were given back in the spring of 2019. After receiving shipments from a large Pepsico distribution center in Iowa, distribution centers noticed that large amounts of Quaker Oats were being destroyed in the shipment containers.

The company did a wonderful job of engaging with the students and allowing them the opportunity to present solutions to real world problems. The small groups worked one on one with a Pepsico representative and then were able to present to the class their solutions.

Pepsico then explained the solution their team


implemented and the process they used to reach it. Overall, it was a very successful evening with IBEP students receiving wonderful insights on corporate problem solving and strategy.


The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

View our Privacy Policy.