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Students can earn NMSU industrial engineering graduate degrees from anywhere in the world

Whether it’s four hours away in Tucson, Arizona, or at a military base halfway around the globe, students can earn industrial engineering graduate degrees at New Mexico State University.

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Edward Pines, industrial engineering department head at New Mexico State University, helps students earn graduate degrees through a distance education program. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

NMSU’s College of Engineering offers both master’s and doctorate degrees in industrial engineering by distance education. NMSU has the only industrial engineering program in the state, which began in the mid-1980s. The 30-credit master’s degree is delivered through a combination of downloadable web files, CD’s, videotape and live classes.

“I think the real useful aspect of the program is the career mobility we have provided people,” said Edward Pines, industrial engineering department head. “The slogan I use is – we sell opportunity. Not that we are giving anything away for free. If you are willing to do the work, we are here to help people succeed and students do quite well.”

Pines said he believes that distance technologies are extremely useful especially in locations such as New Mexico – a large state without a large population density. In its three decades of existence, the delivery methods to communicate with students have evolved with the times. In the 1980s, professors would travel to different cities across the state to teach. In the 1990s, students would watch VHS tapes of lectures, and now students download compressed video files.

“We get a lot of people in our graduate program who have a job within industrial engineering, and engineering management would be helpful, but they don’t want to be industrial engineers in the traditional sense,” he said.

According to Pines, the industrial engineering graduate program often has students who are technical managers, project managers and operations researchers for the military including the Army and Air Force.

Col. David Hudak, who is the current director of the Department of Defense Readiness Reporting Implementation Office in Washington, D.C., graduated with his Ph.D. in December 2008.

“I am a proponent of lifelong learning and when I was assigned to White Sands Missile Range in 2003, I researched what opportunities were available to continue my education,” Hudak said. “The industrial engineering program has a very strong symbiotic relationship with the TRADOC Analysis Center at White Sands for master degree students.”

With assistance from Pines, Hudak constructed an academic plan for all his doctorate requirements over a five-year period. He began taking classes in 2004, and is believed to be the first to go through this program as an active-duty Army officer while still working full-time.

“Distance learning provided me the opportunity to study at my own pace and location as I needed to travel a great deal, I was able to take the lectures and homework with me on the road,” he said. “The distance learning option provided me the flexibility I needed and the personal interaction with the faculty.”

Stephanie Walker decided to purse a master’s degree in industrial engineering for career advancement. She is currently a strategy implementation lead at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems.

“The industrial engineering program at NMSU focuses on business fundamentals as well the industrial engineering principles and tools,” said Walker. “This balance was exactly what I was looking for to give me a competitive advantage.”

Walker, who worked full-time while in the master’s program, said both her work and coursework benefited from the experience.

“I was able to better understand the topics covered because I had a real time situation I could relate them to and in turn I could apply the principles I was learning at work to help me advance in my career while working on my degree,” she said.

After earning her master’s degree in July 2007, Walker received a promotion and salary increase.

“I still apply the knowledge daily and feel this has helped me to stand apart and continue my career growth,” she said.

Hudak agreed that his industrial engineering doctorate has furthered his career.

“Having a Ph.D. opens doors for positions that require that qualification,” he said. “For example, when I graduated I was offered a research position in the Army at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Similarly, now that I am in D.C. at the Pentagon, I am looked at for assignments that are considered highly technical or complex.”

While at NMSU, Hudak conducted research at the Physical Science Laboratory.

“Using their state-of-the-art simulations model, I was able to work and learn from professors that I wouldn’t normally meet in just one department,” he said. “Dr. Ray Bernstein at PSL was incredibly influential in my research and very gracious in allowing me to work on his team. The combination of the industrial engineering program and PSL offered me the chance to put theory and practice together in my dissertation.

“It was a very hard road to get to graduation, but an amazing and worthwhile experience,” he noted.

While Hudak and Walker have graduated from the program, Karl Pennock is currently in the program and he expects to graduate with his master’s degree in December 2015.

A 2010 MBA graduate, Pennock decided to return to NMSU to learn more about operations research and additional technical aspects of business management through the industrial engineering program, which he believes will enhance his career mobility. Currently, Pennock is working full-time as a capacity development coordinator with the New Mexico Environment Department, while finishing his master’s degree.

“NMSU provided a convenient opportunity to explore this interest through its extended learning program,” Pennock said. “Since I am already involved in program management, specifically water infrastructure development, I feel the biggest benefit will be the potential to advance my career quicker than I would be able to do otherwise.”