Michele Kaiser earned her Master of Engineering: Engineering Management from the University of Wisconsin–Madison while continuing to work full time and advance her promising engineering career. To cap that impressive juggling act, Kaiser recently received SAE International’s Rodica Baranescu Award for Technical & Leadership Excellence, which honors women in the engineering profession.
Clearly, Kaiser has a knack for multitasking. But she credits the flexibility of the Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program for making an advanced degree possible. Courses are online, with brief optional residencies on the UW–Madison campus over two summers.
“The fact that there were options to attend live web conferences during the day or the evening was a real lifesaver for me,” says Kaiser, a manager of supplier quality for John Deere Construction and Forestry Division. “The on-campus residency was easy to plan around since the dates were set well in advance. The instructors were very easy to work with when I had to manage any exceptions, such as changing jobs and moving to another state during the second semester.”
The Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program provides an MBA-style education in the business of engineering. It’s geared toward midcareer engineers looking to work more effectively or to move into leadership positions. Students learn to analyze corporate financial data and make sound engineering and business decisions.
For Kaiser, receiving the Rodica Baranescu Award was a satisfying payoff for all her hard work, academically and professionally.
“My colleagues at Deere were extremely supportive and excited to see this,” she says. “Our communications team wrote a nice article about it that was featured on our John Deere intranet, so it was fun to hear from my colleagues around the world once that was posted. I hope the award can inspire someone else to pursue a career path in a STEM field.”
‘A more effective leader of people’
Kaiser enrolled in the Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program 10 years after her undergraduate degree, attracted by UW–Madison’s strong reputation for online education.
“UW-Madison’s distance learning programs are consistently ranked in the top of U.S. News & World Report ratings, so I knew this would be serious graduate-level work,” she says.
Kaiser also liked the program’s cohort model, which allowed her to build relationships even at a distance.
“Most of the teaching was done live via web and video conferencing, and that made it an enriched experience,” she says. “I think without that aspect, the distance learning experience could be isolating, but that was never the case at UW–Madison. Furthermore, the cohort model made it easy to stay connected with classmates and complete group projects. I made lifelong friends in this program, which was an unexpected benefit.”
Kaiser’s instructors ranged from department chairs to professionals outside of academia. Some of them also became friends of hers.
“They really understood what all of us were going through as working professionals with busy lives,” she says. “I found all of the instructors to be approachable and extremely quick to respond to questions, no matter what time of day. They are there to help the students succeed, and it shows.”
Kaiser directly applied the skills she developed in the Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program to her previous role as a product line program manager at John Deere.
“Without the strong impact of this program, I would not have been as ready to tackle that tough position,” she says. “I learned a lot of key skills on communicating technical information that I still apply today, and the program also enabled me to be a more effective leader of people.”
For more information on UW–Madison’s Master of Engineering: Engineering Management, see the program website.