Oakland University: Masters in Engineering Management Interview
Shawn Wasserman posted on March 24, 2014 |
Bucking the trend with a large on-campus following.

Program Description:

“The Masters of Engineering Management program is offered by the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department in cooperation with the School of Business Administration. The program’s goal is to provide the tools and skills necessary to making sound management decisions in industry while retaining one’s commitment to a specialized engineering field.

The competitive advantage of Oakland University’s MEM is its flexible curriculum. Students select 5 - 6 courses in three areas of engineering (engineering productivity, engineering speciality and theory) from a list of over 150 courses and 4 - 5 business courses from the School of Business Administration. The program is for students with a bachelor's degree from any field of engineering (industrial and systems, mechanical, electrical, computer, etc.).” Robert P. Van Til, Ph.D. Professor and Chair

Where is it: Rochester, MI

Format: Both (focus On-campus)

Degree you get: Master of Science

Size of the Program: ~55 current students

Number of credit hours: 35-36 credits

And that will take how long? ~3 years

When does it run:  Start on any term.

Fees: $20,000 - $25,000

Minimum Admission Requirements:

  • Transcripts, GPA +3.0
  • TOEFL 80+
  • Letters of Reference

Not Required

  • GRE
  • Essay
  • Resume

Who should take it?

  • Average 22-30 years old
  • 1-8 years of experience
  • Working Jr. Engineers

Claim to fame:

  • Large curriculum options
  • Large on-campus following


Oakland University’s online Masters of Engineering Management offering started as a pilot program in 2013. At this stage, most of Oakland U’s Masters students are learning on campus.

Robert P. Van Til, Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Industrial and Systems Engineering Department.

ENGINEERING.com spoke with Oakland’s Chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, Robert P. Van Til, to get a better understanding of how OU’s on-campus Master’s program has remained so strong.

“Our main focus to go online started in early 2013,” said Van Til. “However, our online courses are meant to compliment the on-campus offering which began in the 1990's. We did it to help with local scheduling. About 90% of our students are working so it can be easier for them to take a few, or even most, of their courses online.”

“However, with regional name recognition it is hard for us to compete on a national scale with other big name Universities,” adds Van Til. “That’s why we focus on the specific needs of engineers in a 50 mile radius around the school. This includes many engineers from the automotive and defense industry. To compete within this radius we offer plenty of on-campus options. For those in a driving distance we just have a better program.”

Van Til isn’t kidding about the program options.  For students with the proper prerequisites, the list of engineering options ranges to 150 courses. This selection allows students to create their own masters of engineering management to best suit their careers. Students can also choose 4-5 courses from the School of Business Administration. Overall, students can choose 10 courses to make up the 36 credits required to graduate.

“Do you need to bone up on a technical area?” asked Van Til.  “We have a lot of courses to choose from. If you want to focus on Management, you can do that too. Those courses all have an engineering flavour. Our Legal Environment of Business and Financial Accounting courses are the most popular.  We are developing a very good program in the area of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) with the assistance of local companies and our involvement in the Siemens' GO PLM Program. We could use more analytics courses in industrial and systems engineering  but we are working on that one. We are also working with a local consulting company on possibly developing a series of courses that focus on technical and strategic issues related to engineering in the connected world” Van Til added.

If you have been out of the education game for a while, then Van Til suggests you, “only take one course to start off. At this rate it will take closer to 3 years to complete your Masters of Engineering Management, but you can always ramp up if you find you can handle it. Even if you do make a bigger commitment, taking one engineering course and one less rigorous business course is a good tactic.”

As Oakland is mostly on-campus, it creates an interesting division among the student body with respect to experience. The school targets students with anywhere from 1-8 years of experience while other programs target 2-5 years. Even more interesting, OU doesn’t even ask students for a resume.

Van Til explains, “We have two types of students that take a Masters of Engineering Management at Oakland: those that want a fast track to management and those that are starting to get promoted and find that they need management tools. These are busy professionals and we don’t stamp tickets. You must show you are successful. After that, we will not turn you away for a lack of a strong resume. We ask for reference letters, and your prerequisites. That is enough for us.”

It can be risky for a young engineer to expect a management position without experience. Engineers tend to expect technical expertise from their managers. To alleviate this issue, companies in the Oakland area like Chrysler tend to put their young engineers on a rotational program. Some students get up to 10 hours a week paid to work on their Masters of Engineering Management.

Without a company sponsor though, students may be best to start the program after gaining experience on their own.

Students are encouraged to access their online classes synchronously with the live lecture. However, if they miss it they can access the class asynchronously later. “Students appreciate the ability to stop the lecture immediately to ask a question. Professors like it better too. They miss the one-on-one interactions within a class,” expressed Van Til.

Online assessments can be uploaded or scanned to the professors. The work can be focused on real work projects or hypothetical situations. Some professors will also perform oral examinations to ensure the students are understanding the content. These are also good tricks to cut down on cheating.

“The high on-campus following helps to limit cheating as well, but we do want students to still collaborate on their work. Besides if you cheat on the assignments and we miss it, we will catch you on the exam,” warns Van Til.

Finally, Oakland embeds continuous improvement into their program. Every class has a survey and indirect measurements to ensure they are meeting the course objectives set out in the syllabus. Some classes even have external evaluations.

Why wouldn’t you get an MEM from Oakland University:

  • You live far away from Rochester, MI
  • You don’t have enough years of engineering experience or a company sponsor
  • You are interested in an in-depth analytics program in industrial engineering


Engineering Courses - Select 4:

  • ISE 580 E-Commerce and ERP
  • ISE 585 Statistical Quality Analysis
  • ISE 587 Foundations of Systems Engineering I
  • ISE 680 Engineering Decision Analysis


Management Courses - Select 4:

  • ACC 511 Financial Accounting
  • MGT 550 Legal Environment in Business
  • FIN 533 Financial Management
  • MKT 560 Marketing Management
  • ORG 530 Organizational Behavior
  • POM 521 Operations Management


Elective Course - Select 1:

  • ACC 512 Managerial Accounting
  • ECN 521 Economics for Managers
  • A fifth course the Engineering or Management lists


Theory Course:

  • ISE 517 Statistical Methods in Engineering

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