Online Doesn’t Mean Alone: How Stevens Connects Distance Learners

June 23, 2022

Cecelia Kaido earned her bachelor’s in mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics in May of 2020. Shortly after, she began working for the global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin. Drawn to leadership, Kaido was intensely curious about how engineering projects come together. She participated in Lockheed Martin’s leadership program and took three courses focused on systems engineering. 

A self-proclaimed people person, Kaido quickly realized she didn’t want to stay in the technical side of engineering for her entire career. She decided she wanted to become a decision-maker and work with groups of people to solve problems. She thrived in collaborative environments.

Kaido learned of the Stevens Institute of Technology online Master of Engineering in Engineering Management (M.Eng.) program offered by the School of Systems and Enterprises from a coworker and felt the program could help her develop her management skills. The one hesitation she had was that the online platform wouldn’t give her opportunities to connect and collaborate, but that hesitancy turned out to be unfounded.

Kaido took the time to share more about her experiences in the online M.Eng. program and how the StevensOnline engineering management master’s program builds community in a virtual classroom environment.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE AN ONLINE PROGRAM?

I work full time, and studying online was a convenient choice. I could have enrolled in an in-person program, but I wanted more flexibility. Stevens’ students log in to two lectures a week, and each one is an hour and a half in the evenings. I only need to block out that hour and a half. As long as I drive back to my house and sit down, I don’t have to account for extra time commuting to the school or getting there early. You can log in right at the time it starts. It’s a huge time saver. 

Another nice thing is that online programs attract students from all over. The other students in my cohort are from different states, so I get to meet people I wouldn’t encounter if I was studying on campus. 

WHAT ABOUT STEVENS APPEALED TO YOU?

In Lockheed’s leadership program, I could draw on a lot of resources from previous students who attended different schools. When I was ready to choose a master’s degree program, I already had a list of prospects I could narrow down. I was able to talk to someone who received their engineering management degree from Stevens, and she said that the workload was manageable and the online format was flexible. 

She recommended choosing an engineering management program because she felt the same way I did about wanting to pursue a business engineering track. The M.Eng. application process was easy, and everything went smoothly because I met the program prerequisites. Stevens accepted three previous graduate courses I took as electives, which was a big deal because that meant I had three fewer classes to take. 

I also liked that Stevens had a graduate engineering management program because few other schools have anything like it. It checked all the boxes for me: online, part-time, easy credit transfer and it aligned with my interests. 

I was a little intimidated by the pace at first, but it meant I could take two classes per semester and crank out the degree pretty fast. Even though it was a lot of work, I appreciate that I can earn a master’s in engineering management relatively quickly while working.

HOW DOES STEVENS FOSTER ENGAGEMENT IN THE ONLINE ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT MASTER’S PROGRAM?

My cohort is pretty small, so it’s easy to get to know my classmates. Stevens keeps the same group of students together for classes which has been nice. We keep our cameras on when using Zoom since it’s such a small group, and you can see everyone’s faces. Some of the professors I have now say they’re teaching the same classes on campus, but with 60 plus students per class, so they’re less likely to know everyone in those courses. 

I’ve completed a couple of projects that involved splitting the class up—usually in half. We meet outside of the lecture time on Zoom, which builds community. The smaller class size also opens the floor to conversations that you don’t usually have in a larger lecture environment. The online learning experience is more personalized.

HOW DO OTHER STUDENTS ENHANCE YOUR EXPERIENCE?

One nice thing about the part-time program is that all of the students are professionals working full-time jobs. We’re all in the same boat, and it’s been enriching to talk to other people, learn about what they’re doing and see how that real-world experience enhances conversations during lectures. I was initially nervous about the course load, but the engineering management curriculum and course schedule is manageable when you’re working. I’m in my second semester, and I can confirm that it’s totally doable. 

Engineering management is a broad discipline, and it’s been neat that everyone in my cohort comes from different academic and professional backgrounds. I’m the only one with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in my group. I’ve had interesting conversations about how my peers go about solving various problems at work. We discuss how organizations operate differently from industry to industry. What I do at Lockheed Martin is entirely different from what someone working on a customer support website might do. The general principles that we talk about in lectures are broadly applicable, and it’s cool to learn through conversation how professionals in different industries apply them.

IS THERE A COURSE OR PROFESSOR THAT HAS IMPACTED YOU THE MOST?

Last semester, Chong Ee taught both of my classes, and I got to know him pretty well. He has a unique background since he works full-time and teaches courses at Stevens while teaching online classes at a school in California. He has worked at multiple companies and was always able to share valuable personal experiences. 

The classes this semester are more math-based, which I like. It’s been nice to do some math and incorporate that into the business side and decision-making. One of the M.Eng. classes I’m taking now is Introduction to Operations Research, which covers fundamental operational problems organizations face. You learn how to solve these problems, maximize profit and decide whether purchases are warranted. It’s interesting to see the math behind it.

WHO’S THE IDEAL STUDENT FOR THIS PROGRAM? 

Someone ready to put in the time plus a little extra effort because you only meet with your professors once a week and you are not sitting in a classroom with your peers. You have to hold yourself accountable and schedule the time you need to read or review the materials for each class. This isn’t always easy to do in the evenings after you get done at your full-time job or on the weekends. 

That’s why the ideal student is someone who knows how this program will benefit their career. Graduate school on an online platform is very different from undergrad work. Once you’ve gained experience in the professional world, you can bring that to the classroom. Be ready to be open-minded and share your experiences, and make sure you bring your desire to learn and grow your career to your studies.

The 30-credit online engineering management master’s program at Stevens Institute of Technology pairs the flexibility of remote learning with world-class instruction. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a top provider of online master’s programs in New Jersey and the nation, Stevens offers a hands-on experience with small class sizes, opportunities for collaboration and coursework aligned with industry demand. When you are ready to grow your career while growing your network, apply to earn your M.Eng. online.