Opening doors for engineering students and the service industry

Megan Lakatos
February 08, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumnus Charles Schneider has gifted $1 million to the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering’s Service Enterprise Engineering Initiative (SEE 360) to endow the Charles and Enid Schneider Scholarship in Service Enterprise Engineering.

Matched 1:1 by Penn State for a total of $2 million, the gift will support full-time undergraduate and graduate students with financial need who are enrolled or plan to enroll in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering and are majoring or planning to major in a degree in service enterprise engineering.

Service enterprise engineering (SEE) at Penn State has seen steady growth ever since its advisory board was established at Schneider’s urging in 2003, and a milestone was reached in summer 2018 when a SEE minor became available to undergraduate students. With Schneider’s gift, SEE 360 will grow even larger, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in SEE made available in the near future.

“Chuck is a strong champion of engineering education at Penn State, and through his leadership and philanthropy, he has been integral to the growth of SEE at the University and on a national level,” said Vittal Prabhu, director of SEE 360 and professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering. “This gift will allow us to attract highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students to SEE, further propelling SEE 360 to the forefront of such programs nationally and internationally.”

Schneider’s career was spent in manufacturing businesses up until 1978, when he decided to take a job in the service industry. Though there were many highly engineered, effective service businesses, he noticed that most of the service industries he came in contact with were under-engineered. He saw a great opportunity for engineers in the service sector, because, in his view, the lack of engineering in the service delivery process is a major reason for the chronic low quality and productivity in many service businesses.

“Engineers are generally curious. They love to solve problems and think things through and not accept things as they are, and I think one of the biggest problems that I see in the service economy is that too many people accept bad processes as just the way it is,” Schneider said. “For example, people will sit in a waiting room at a hospital patiently for hours and not think that’s absolutely ridiculous, yet if your iPhone doesn’t respond in a tenth of a second, it’s a bad product. There’s such a different standard.”

Around 20 years ago, he approached his alma mater about creating a service engineering curriculum to educate engineers for the service industry. In 2003, the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering established the Service Enterprise Engineering Advisory Board to help guide its undergraduate and graduate curriculum, as well as to identify emerging research areas. Schneider has served as the board’s chair since its inception. In 2013, Schneider and his late wife, Enid, made a $1 million gift to increase the department’s educational and research work in service engineering.

“When people ask what the strong areas of the department are, SEE is one of those due to the long-time interest and investment from Chuck,” said Janis Terpenny, Peter and Angela Dal Pezzo Chair and head of the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. “Vittal and Chuck have a wonderful relationship, and the ideas that flow among Chuck, Vittal and the board have generated multiple initiatives that have led to the program’s great success. We are delighted about the Schneider’s gift and are excited for the future of SEE 360 at Penn State.”

Justin Schwartz, the Harold and Inge Marcus Dean of Engineering, added, “The Penn State College of Engineering is very grateful for the amazing generosity of one of our most dedicated alums, Chuck Schneider. He embodies the idea of giving back, with almost two decades of service to our college and students, and significant financial contributions as well. The Schneider Scholarships will have impact on our students for decades to come, ensuring that students choose their career paths not because of financial limitations, but because they have a passion to impact society. Service Enterprise Engineering is emerging as a promising academic pathway for our students, and I look forward to seeing Schneider Scholarship recipients earn SEE degrees and go on to successful careers.”

As the founder and chairman of U.S. Security Associates since 1993, a service company with more than 55,000 employees, Schneider knows firsthand that the service sector represents a vast frontier for engineering students of the future.

“To me, service engineering is such an opportunity on so many fronts — for business, for students, for the University, for the economy — it’s just such an opportunity waiting to be capitalized upon,” Schneider said. “I see the scholarships as just one more step along the way. I hope to get some students being successful at it, Penn State to be recognized for it, and hopefully the whole economy’s productivity to be better off for it.”  

For more information on SEE 360 at Penn State, visit see360.psu.edu.

This gift from Charles Schneider will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated February 11, 2019