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Steve Schroeder, Rockwell Collins, (319) 295-1522
Martin Cutter, Rockwell Collins, (319) 295-2216
Doug Gemmill, Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering,
(515) 294-8731
Mary Jo Glanville, Engineering Communications, (515) 294-8787
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- This week Steve Schroeder is enjoying a few minutes of free time. It's a luxury he hasn't experienced for awhile -- 26 months to be exact. Schroeder and 30 other professional engineers comprise the graduating class of the first executive engineer dual master's degree program, offered by Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.

In completing the program, the students earned a master of engineering in systems engineering (MESE) from Iowa State and a master of business administration (MBA) from Iowa. The agreement between Iowa State's College of Engineering and the University of Iowa's Henry Tippie School of Management to develop and offer the dual degree program was prompted by a request from executives at Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids.

"With around 2,700 engineers, our need for high-level technical leadership that understands the business side and the technology side of the equation is very important," said Martin Cutter, manager, engineering resource management, at Rockwell Collins. "We knew the executive MBA program at Iowa and ISU's systems engineering master's program provided the basic elements, so we proposed the dual program."

"This program is a cornerstone of our technical leadership development," said Rockwell Collins president, Clay Jones. "It's one of our key ingredients as we look to compete in the future and to invest in the talent we have throughout our corporation, specifically in Iowa. I think it's an excellent example of cooperation between our state universities."

Launched in October 2000, the program is set up in executive format with students taking classes as a group and working on projects in teams, said Doug Gemmill, associate professor and director of Iowa State's systems engineering graduate program. Classes are held Fridays and Saturdays in Cedar Rapids, with study groups meeting at least once a week. In addition, the program includes a week in residence at both Iowa State and Iowa, along with a 10-day trip abroad.

While the program is intense and challenging, the students have found it to be worthwhile. The interaction among the students, all engineers employed at several Iowa companies, contributed to the program's success.

"The other students were phenomenal," said Casee Eisele, a design engineer with John Deere, Waterloo. "I learned an immense amount from them, hearing about their organizations and how they do things."

Overall, the program was a dynamic blend of business and engineering, according to Schroeder, an engineering software manager for business and regional systems at Rockwell Collins. "Too many times people say they want to live by the numbers or the business financials. As an engineer, I'm used to figuring in black and white. I never even thought about marketing. This lets us look at the other side," he explained.

The final project provided participants with the opportunity to apply and integrate what they had learned throughout the program. Heidi Millard Kenkel, a supervisor for quality planning and customer satisfaction at John Deere, Waterloo, described the assignment.

"We had to come up with our own technology idea or product, create a business plan, determine how to finance it, figure out what it would cost to produce, and develop a marketing plan," she explained.

The project demonstrated how engineering and business complement each other, other students said.

Greg Cornish, a senior engineering manager at Schneider Electric, North American Division, Cedar Rapids, found value in the international experience. "We had to research a company in Brazil that we wanted to visit, make contact, and set up a meeting. It was an excellent experience. Learning about business in South American was very applicable to what I do," he added.

The next program is scheduled to start in March, with selection of applicants underway.


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Published by: University Relations,
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