Friday, October 12, 2007

Flexible SDM programs advance corporate strategies - SDM Pulse, Fall 2007

By John M. Grace, industry codirector of SDM

I fielded a series of questions about the flexibility of SDM’s various programs during the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) symposium held in San Diego in July 2007. In order to help companies get the most out of SDM, here is a quick look at how SDM’s offerings can be tailored to meet your specific strategic needs. Keep in mind that it takes teamwork between the company and SDM to capitalize on the program’s flexibility—we need to know your goals if we’re going to help you reach them.

SDM’s portfolio of programs consists of the following:

The SDM certificate program, with class sessions available at a distance or on campus, includes three courses from the SDM master’s curriculum, a capstone project, and two weeklong seminar sessions on the MIT campus. Graduates receive a certificate of graduate studies in systems engineering in one year.

The SDM master’s program is available as a part-time program at a distance or, in the local area, in a commuter and full-time on-campus format. This program consists of a 14-course curriculum with elective tracks and course options, a thesis requirement, and flexible on-campus requirements consisting of weeklong “business trips” to campus each semester and one semester on campus sometime during the program. Graduates receive an SM in engineering and management granted jointly by MIT’s School of Engineering and MIT Sloan School of Management.

The PhD program, offered through MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD), focuses on developing cross-disciplinary knowledge from many of MIT’s departments and divisions. About 10 percent of SDM students typically continue to the PhD level. The ESD PhD leads to a doctorate in engineering systems, but will not be discussed further in this article. For more information, visit

All of these programs have been developed by faculty from MIT’s School of Engineering, MIT Sloan School of Management, and industry.

The SDM certificate program
This one-year option provides seasoned engineers with the most current thinking on systems engineering, system architecture, and product design and development—at a very reasonable cost to their employers.

The certificate program is ideally suited to helping companies cascade systems thinking throughout their organizations. While students attend the same classes as SDM master’s students, they are typically also on the job—which means they can apply what they’ve learned directly and immediately. Capstone projects that apply SDM methods and techniques can also address specific company problems and involve a team of students from the same organization.

The SDM master’s program
The centerpiece of SDM, the master’s program helps companies develop future technical leaders, build a cadre of systems thinkers, and enhance technical and business competencies. The program also links companies into faculty and research networks and provides a valuable source of highly talented and trained individuals. The program consists of three core, seven foundation, and four elective courses. Corporations closely linked to SDM may help create unique program tracks for their students.

For all companies, the thesis requirement provides a range of strategic opportunities. Companies may mentor self-sponsored students, support self-sponsored students in areas of interest, support their own students in selected corporate research, or develop a portfolio of theses to examine critical problem areas. The thesis requirement can also help companies tap into current MIT research and technology.

Building networks

SDM establishes a network of students, faculty, and corporations that can become a continual resource for both individuals and companies. The excellence of SDM participants, the quality of students in closely associated programs within ESD, as well the extraordinary faculty and staff of MIT all ensure that corporations linked to SDM enjoy a wealth of beneficial associations.

Corporations wishing to maximize the benefits of SDM can also partner with the program to have an impact on content and program options, as well as to recruit students.

Without a doubt, SDM’s flexible family of programs is well suited to enhance a corporation’s strategic position, leadership cadre, and even product offerings. For further discussion on any or all of the above topics, contact John M. Grace, SDM industry codirector, at or 617.253.2081.

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