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New master’s degree program in management and leadership is growing

This fall, 31 students signed up for on-campus study and three chose the newer online MEML degree option.

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This article originally appeared in the 2022 issue of Rice Engineering Magazine.

Last year, the Rice Faculty Senate approved creation of a new professional master’s degree in the George R. Brown School of Engineering — the Master of Engineering Management and Leadership (MEML) — to become available that fall.

Three students enrolled in that first semester, all selecting the on-campus option. This fall, 31 students signed up for on-campus study and three chose the newer online MEML degree option.

“The MEML degree is training engineering managers not where most industries are today, but where all of them who will thrive in Industry 4.0 must go,” said C. Fred Higgs III, vice provost for academic affairs and director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL). “In other words, the MEML degree has been designed to anticipate where industry is headed.”

The degree is administered by RCEL in both its online and in-person formats. Admissions standards for the two are identical and neither requires the writing of a thesis, but students must choose a format when applying.

The program has seven dedicated MEML faculty members in eight areas of specialization, the most popular specializations being computer science and data science. Higgs said engineering management fills the gap between engineering and management rather than simply combining the two disciplines.

“It is aimed at engineers and technical people at companies and startups who want to lead engineering, not leave engineering or other technical careers,” Higgs said. In its degree proposal to the Faculty Senate, Higgs and others said the MEML degree would “leverage our nationally known undergraduate engineering leadership certificate program’s reputation,” which started in 2015. The proposal also emphasized the industry leadership experience of the RCEL faculty, including its lecturers and professors in the practice.

“We have entered a Fourth Industrial Revolution, where the physical, digital and biological spheres are converging,” Higgs said. “The growing number of companies working to create products and services in this new revolution make up Industry 4.0. None of the previous revolutions spawned new technologies at the pace of this one.”

The MEML program includes evening and weekend courses, offering students flexible scheduling options with both online and on-campus programs, and full-time and part-time opportunities. MEML is aimed at both recent graduates and working professionals in engineering or related areas. The online MEML degree, which typically consists of working engineering professionals going part time, has garnered much interest from Rice engineering alumni and local engineers.

The new degree consists of six courses in engineering management and leadership; courses in engineering economics, applied statistics and data science; and a specialization consisting of three graduate courses in a chosen department within the School of Etngineering.

Instead of choosing a specialization from an engineering department, MEML students may opt to choose from one of three emerging disciplines: data science, financial engineering and industrial engineering.

The degree culminates in a capstone course and project in which students are expected to devise Industry 4.0 solutions to real-world problems while exhibiting the skill of an engineering manager leader.

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