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Online Systems Engineering education meets workforce demands

August 11, 2009

Steve Brandl had been considering going back to the classroom for some time, but was concerned that continuing his education would be difficult while maintaining his responsibilities at work.

After only three classes in Colorado State University Continuing Education’s new Systems Engineering program, Brandl is already applying his new skills and knowledge to his day-to-day work, and also received a recent related promotion.

"I've already learned things from this program that I can take right to my job," said Brandl. "This is a really great opportunity for someone looking to move up in the field."

M.E. degree with flexibility

Launched in the fall of 2008, the Master of Engineering degree with a specialization in systems engineering offers an innovative curriculum and a unique delivery method for maximum flexibility. Systems engineering provides an interdisciplinary approach to complex engineering projects in the aerospace, energy, environment, and bioscience industries.

Employers are increasingly requiring a disciplined development process to manage complex engineered systems and produce a quality and reasonably priced product for their customers. CSU Continuing Education's online systems engineering program meets these workforce needs and helps engineers achieve their career goals.

"The practice of systems engineering has been evolving for more than 50 years," said Ron Sega, the Woodward Professor of Systems Engineering who has led the development of the systems engineering program. "Colorado employers have expressed a critical need for systems engineering education that will give their workers a broad base of knowledge that can be applied to complex systems, whether that’s in aerospace, energy, environment or other fields. We are trying to meet those needs through the flexibility of an in-class or out-of-class, synchronous or asynchronous delivery approach."

Knowledge applied to current job

Steve Brandl, an Engine Application Engineer at Woodward Governor's Loveland plant, recently completed his first year in the online Systems Engineering program.

"Even though I've just had less than a year in the program, there are pieces that I've already used and applied to my job," said Brandl. "I've already seen the benefits in a lot of the work I do every day."

The program's curriculum is driven by workforce needs and partnerships with companies such as Woodward. Woodward develops engine system technology across a range of sizes, types, applications, and markets. Brandl works with small engine technology primarily for automotive and industrial applications.

"The bigger systems perspective is really needed to meet different requirements of different markets," said Brandl. "It's a lot better to get extensive training with more depth in an academic setting, and then being able to reinforce course material with real world stuff. The overview of the process, and the depth of knowledge about the process, could be really useful to apply to our group."

How to approach problems

The systems engineering program begins by establishing a strong foundation in systems engineering, and then moves into depth courses, electives, and collaborative group study. Brandl has only taken a few classes in the program so far, but is already seeing the results in his daily work.

Brandl said, "I'm learning new systems engineering skills that are giving me a new mindset about how to approach problems – the process of how to boil projects down, how to put the pieces back together, and ultimately how to deliver the product to the customer."

Remote access with option to attend class

Classes are offered on campus and online in a collaborative environment. Our program can be taken synchronously or asynchronously, which means students can attend class and interact as if they are in the classroom during regular meeting times or any time that fits into their schedules.  Brandl has been pleased with the program's flexibility, which is unique for a graduate engineering degree.

"The remote access is really nice, and the option to attend class, too," Brandl said. "That flexibility is especially important for professionals whose schedules always shift, and you never know where you're going to be."

Brandl has been impressed with how applicable course content has been to his work at Woodward, and has encouraged others in his group to pursue Continuing Education's systems engineering offerings.

"The systems engineering program has, so far, given me a new mindset and perspective on how to approach my job day to day," Brandl said. "The commitment to the program is definitely worth it."

Contact: Jeanna Nixon
Phone: (970) 491-2817