History of the Cornell Program
Cornell's Master of Engineering program in Engineering Management is designed to serve engineers from all disciplines, and focuses on integrating technical analysis with managerial decision making. Engineering managers guide the development of technology in the production of goods and services that fulfill commercial and social needs. To be as effective as possible, they must possess both the engineering expertise to understand the technology they are managing, and the managerial skills to facilitate the efficient development of that technology. Their effectiveness is further enhanced when they can integrate these two competencies by bringing "a management perspective to the engineering problem and an engineering perspective to a management decision."
The Engineering Management Program at Cornell had its origins within the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) in the mid-1980's. A group of CEE faculty perceived the need to create a more management-oriented option within the Master of Engineering (MEng) degree program, but unlike many other Civil Engineering programs that focus specifically on construction management, Cornell's program was envisioned from the beginning as being broader, inviting students from all engineering disciplines and focusing on the general problems that engineers face in project management, mitigating technological risks, etc.
The MEng degree at Cornell originated in the mid-1960's, as the transition from a 5-year engineering degree to a standard 4-year undergraduate program was made. The MEng degree was viewed as an alternative to the Master of Science degree, focusing more on professional practice, and able to be completed in one year of full-time study. The MEng degree structure offered an ideal framework for creation of the Engineering Management program.
The first students began the program in 1988. The program's origins within CEE made project management a natural focus of the program, and helped to create an identity for the program that was clearly different from existing programs in Operations Research and in the Johnson Graduate School of Management. The program has been administered since the beginning within CEE, but for many years has been viewed as a program offering of the College of Engineering — College-wide in scope, but housed within a traditional department.
Like Cornell's other MEng programs, the Engineering Management offering serves primarily full-time students. The majority complete the program in one academic year, although a significant fraction (especially foreign students) use three semesters to complete the degree requirements.
The curriculum is built around a core of three required courses and a project. The required courses are in Project Management, Business Analytic Methods, and Risk Analysis. The project activity is a one-semester focused team effort on problems that vary from year to year, with teams ranging from 4-12 students (depending on the scope and needs of particular projects). This activity provides valuable experience in working in a team, exercising leadership skills, and addressing problems that are too big to be done individually.
In addition to this required core, students must also take a "financial" elective and a "behavioral" elective. Appropriate courses are selected based on a student's background. Frequently, these courses are taken in the Johnson Graduate School of Management. Finally, the curriculum requires a student to complete a three-course specialization, which is normally a mixture of engineering and management courses, often focused on a particular application area like energy, manufacturing, telecommunications, biomedical, property development, etc.
Over the last few years, we have targeted enrollments of approximately 40 full-time students per year. In addition, there are a few students who are enrolled part-time, but this number is generally only 5-6 per year. Approximately one-third of our students are from Cornell — mostly undergraduate engineering students who have opted to stay one additional year and enter the job market with a Master's degree rather than a Bachelor's degree. Overall, our students are roughly half from the U.S. and half from other countries, and women typically make up about one-third of the class.
Over the next few years, we do not anticipate substantial growth in our program, because we are limited by a combination of faculty and physical facilities. However, increasing awareness of MEM programs in general, and Cornell's in particular, will help us to maintain a high quality applicant pool, and for our graduates to have attractive employment opportunities.
Cornell's engagement with the MEMPC offers an opportunity to exchange information on curriculum, ways of improving program offerings, and means to better engage prospective employers of our graduates. The central effort of MEMPC to raise awareness of the MEM degree and the value that graduates of our collective programs bring to employers is critical, and will aid all of the universities that are part of the consortium.