Online master's helped my career: Andrew Penning

As an engineer at 3M, Andrew Penning was pretty happy with his job -- but he felt he could do more. With an online master's in mechanical engineering from Purdue, he found new opportunities to advance his career into research and development.



Andrew was raised on a farm in southern Minnesota; his father worked as a mechanic on farm equipment.  “So I grew up taking stuff apart, and working on the mechanisms of engines,” said Andrew.  “I was good enough at math in high school, that I felt I should study mechanical engineering in college.”

He split his undergraduate degree between the University of Minnesota and University of Northwestern, St. Paul.  He had planned to continue onto graduate school, but the opportunities in the working world were too good to pass up.  “I got married while I was still in undergrad,” remembered Andrew, “and got a really good job offer from 3M to work in computer modeling and simulation.”

But after a few years, he found something was missing.  “I was learning the industry side of things, but from the academic point of view, I was missing some of the fundamentals,” he said.  “And that’s where Purdue’s online master’s program has filled in the gaps, and really helped me with his work that I’m passionate about.”

With the Purdue online master’s degree, online students take the same classes with the same professors as on-campus students.  “The education I’m getting is identical,” said Andrew.  “It’s the same testing, it’s the same grading, it’s the same lectures.  I’m just watching it online, when it’s convenient for me.”

“You have to maintain a balance,” continued Andrew.  “I’m expected to still do my full-time job, plus I’ve got a kid at home and one on the way.  I spend time with my kid, put them to bed, and then I have to hammer down on studying.”

And like any student, there are times when Andrew needs help with a specific subject.  “Professors know when they are teaching an online class that their remote students are going to have questions,” said Andrew.  “They are active with email and with bulletin boards, and so are all the other students in the class.  My advisor, Prof. Justin Weibel, is really great.  Engineering school is hard either way, and you’ll have trouble if you try to do it all yourself.  Purdue encourages collaboration to help us all succeed.”

Even though Andrew is still in the middle of the online master’s program, it’s already paid off for him.  “It’s opened doors into a new position for me on the research side here at 3M,” said Andrew.  “Corporate R&D is something I had always wanted to get into from the beginning, and this Purdue program has really enabled that to happen.”

“Purdue has so many different course offerings,” said Andrew.  “I focus on the numerical side, but someone else may have another interest.  Mechanical engineering is so broad and so flexible, that they have something for everyone.  And Purdue is so highly ranked in all their engineering disciplines, but to see them ranked #1 for their online master’s program made me really happy.”

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