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Dale Callahan, Ph.D., PE has three Electrical Engineering degrees as well as an MBA. He has been a member of the UAB faculty since 2000 and he serves as the director of the Information Engineering Management track in the Master of Engineering Program.

Why would a student choose to pursue this degree at UAB, as opposed to an engineering management degree from another university?

Callahan: This partnership between the School of Engineering and the Collat School of Business is unique in that it is the only such joint program in the state and one of the few in the nation.

How is the MSEM program going to be different from UAB’s existing Master of Engineering (MEng) program?

Callahan: The most obvious difference is that this program requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering. We see this program as a way to supplement undergraduate engineering training by preparing students to take on leadership roles once they enter a career field—either within industry or in continued academic work toward a Ph.D.

In contrast, the MEng program requires several years of experience to apply and typically attracts working professionals who see a master’s degree as a way of advancing their existing careers.

Why are master-degree programs such as MSEM necessary? Are there skills that are lacking in graduates with a B.S. only?

Callahan: An undergraduate engineering curriculum is very good at teaching engineering skills, but there is no way to prepare students for all the variables they might encounter on the job, particularly when it comes to certain business aspects. The MSEM curriculum will offer specialized engineering training in specific tracks of study along with business training that address non-engineering elements, such as critical thinking in uncertain business environments, teamwork and leadership development, and communications.

Feedback we’ve gotten from our alumni tells us that many of them are moved into some sort of management role within five years of graduation. So you certainly don’t have to have an MSEM degree to get a job as an engineer or to advance in management. But we do believe that if a student wants to run a business or move up in the management of a corporation, this program will provide some very practical training to help them along that path.

You’ve mentioned teamwork and interdisciplinary training. Don’t undergraduates get experience in those areas through interdisciplinary projects, such as the Senior Design courses?

Callahan: At UAB, most of our undergraduates experience some degree of interdisciplinary collaboration, but they’re usually collaborating with other engineers or scientists. Once they enter the workforce—whether they’re at a large corporation or a small start-up—they have to learn to work with people from very different backgrounds, from accounting and human resources to communications and legal professionals.

Will the coursework require students to be on campus, or will there be an online option?

Callahan: There may be online components, but for now the plan is for students to attend classes on campus.