Even the most successful Purdue Engineering alum can speak to the challenges of transitioning from a technical expert to a business leader. And while that may seem like a natural route for any corporate climber, earning concurrent master’s degrees in engineering and management through a new program could ease that path.
In Fall 2019, a campus cohort of some 20 select graduate students will be given the opportunity to earn both degrees in two years, shaving a year off the time it would take to earn them separately. Catering to engineers with bachelor’s degrees from a wide range of disciplines, the program will enable students to spend Year 1 deepening their technical understandings of engineering. They’ll focus on business studies in their second year. Additionally, conferences and campus-wide networking opportunities will be made available.
Professionals, Fully Formed
This new offering involving two of Purdue’s strongest academic programs is built upon previous campus collaborations. “We have a wonderful relationship with the Krannert School of Management working on multiple levels,” says Eckhard Groll, associate dean for undergraduate and graduate education for the College of Engineering and the Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We offer the professional master’s in engineering management, which is a one-year degree, and now this new program.”
Ananth Iyer, senior associate dean of Krannert and the Susan Bulkeley Butler Chair in Operations Management, says those relationships led to discussions with deans and buy-in from various faculty committees, all of whom seemed very bullish on the dual-degree program. The final piece came when the graduate school office determined how credits can be simultaneously applied to students seeking two degrees at once.
“The ideal student we’re looking for is somebody who already has some industry experience,” Groll says. “To get to the next career level, they need some more technical depth, as well as the management skills that help them lead people in an organization.”
Designed to better help graduates meet the changing needs of industry, the dual-degree program could prove to be a win for employee and employer alike. “The traditional technical leader career track is that top performers in engineering move into management,” says Eric VandeVoorde, director of Professional Engineering Master’s Programs. “Here we’re developing a complete professional who’s prepared to navigate and create what the future of engineering looks like.”
Though the future cannot be precisely predicted, VandeVoorde says Purdue can train intentional thought leaders who influence it. The impact of technology, globalization and big data must be navigated by people with unique skillsets. Attracting highly qualified candidates will shape the transformative program that benefits both its graduates and the engineering field.
Working professionals often take classes to further their careers. Typical online master’s programs are generally taken by people one class per semester, which stretches completion to many years. This new program, Groll says, requires a significant commitment. “We’re asking students to take a plunge. Quit their jobs and come to campus and complete the program in two years.”
As recruitment efforts are under way, it remains to be seen what role companies will take. Though employers sometimes pay for continuing education programs, perhaps the most progressive-minded companies would agree to what amounts to a two-year sabbatical for an employee. On the selling side, VandeVoorde points out the timesaver of the two-year program, as well as the leadership development. “These graduates could move quickly into C-level roles as CTOs, CFOs and CEOs,” he says. “They emerge speaking a deeper technical language and knowing how to run a business.”
“This is the golden age of technology,” Iyer says. “There’s big data, interest in incorporating artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. How do we leverage these technologies to generate business value?”