History of the Duke Program
Duke University's Master of Engineering Management Program: Producing Engineering Leaders of Consequence
The Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University offers a one-year Master of Engineering Management (MEM) degree in cooperation with the Fuqua School of Business and School of Law. Designed to develop engineering leaders of consequence for technology-based organizations, the degree provides a personalized, applied engineering management curriculum to a select group of high potential students with science and engineering backgrounds.
The program motto, Eruditionem Facere Utilem, means 'to make knowledge useful' and defines the desired outcome for our students. We want to ensure graduates are prepared to make a difference to society and able to address the 21st century's Grand Challenges such as sustainability, health, vulnerability and joy of living. This requires that they have not only engineering skills but also have the skills necessary to apply their engineering in the real world.
Duke's MEM was launched in 1997 out of recognition that society needs engineers with business skills. This is consistent with current interest to develop "T-shaped" individuals with focused expertise in a technical area of interest (the stem of the T) and breadth of workplace skills, such as business acumen and leadership (the top of the T). To address complex societal grand challenges, it is imperative that engineers have the interdisciplinary perspective to understand not only technological challenges, but also the environmental, societal, and fiscal implications of engineering design decisions.
Duke's interdisciplinary curriculum consists of a core business foundation, a focused technical concentration, an internship, and a seminar and workshops series. The four core business courses are marketing, accounting and finance, intellectual property and business law, and leadership and management. Students gain technical depth by selecting from a wide range of technical electives including:
- graduate engineering classes offered by one of our four engineering departments,
- engineering management program electives, or
- electives from the Fuqua School of Business
The internship component of the program exposes students to the challenges of working in a business environment. As a supplement to the academic coursework and internship, students also participate in our seminar and workshop series. Weekly seminars expose students to executive leaders, technologists and MEM alumni who provide insight into the challenges various industries face. Our innovative and intensive workshop series is an opportunity for students to participate in activity-based learning focused on topics that supplement the program's coursework, helping students develop skills and habits important for a successful career in industry. Recent workshops include ethics, teamwork, leadership, thinking in the moment, cultural awareness and other topics.
Duke's MEM is continuously improving its program. The two most significant changes since the inception of the MEM have been the expansion of technical electives and hiring dedicated career development professionals for MEM students. A survey of early alumni for the program indicated that technical electives needed to be broader than those engineering electives offered to the doctoral students. Now, over 20 engineering management electives are offered each year to better prepare students for their careers. One popular elective is an industrial practicum, where teams of students work under the guidance of a professor to address a current problem for a specific company. Another significant change was made when we realized that the career needs and timelines of MEM students were unique. Therefore, we engaged dedicated career professionals to support MEM students in defining their career objectives and executing a plan to attain them.
With an eye towards serving a broader student body, Duke has launched a distributed education program for working professionals, known as d-MEMP. This program combines three weeklong residencies with semester-based distance coursework that allows students to work and attend school simultaneously. The distance courses are accessible via the web and allow a student to participate synchronously or asynchronously according to their needs and schedule. Based on input from our Industrial Advisory Board, we also integrated residential and distance students into courses and teams. Integration of these students was viewed as important because of the need for today's workforce to work on teams whose members are distributed across multiple locations. In addition to the course content, these integrated courses allow students to learn effective skills for working productively with others from a distance.
In summary, Duke's interdisciplinary Master of Engineering Management Program produces leaders of consequence — graduates with "T-shaped" skill sets encompassing a solid business foundation and focused technical expertise. Perhaps more importantly, they have developed the ability to think critically and creatively, enabling them to use that expertise to make a profound impact on society.