An Inside Look at the Northwestern MEM Community

Associate Director Steve Tilley explains all the different social and networking opportunities available to students in the Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program.

By Steve Tilley

Whenever I speak with prospective students about the Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program here at Northwestern, the word that I always emphasize is "community."

There is a unique culture within MEM among students, alumni, and faculty that is caring and intimate. As a result, there are bonds that develop both inside and outside the classroom that last through the duration of the program and well beyond graduation. Our part-time students tend to come together for life events that take place during their time in MEM, such as a promotion, a marriage, or the birth of a child. Our full-time students, meanwhile, bring added energy to the program by initiating and/or participating in a host of extracurricular activities.

Within MEM, we try to foster that sense of community by leveraging many of the amazing resources that come with being affiliated with the program and Northwestern University as a whole. MEM benefits from an active Student Advisory Board (SAB) that plans monthly social and professional development events for students. The SAB also collaborates with the program to host several workshops throughout the year, including a communications workshop and a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) training.

MEM also invites students and alumni to connect outside of the classroom at our annual football tailgate, at Wrigley Field for a Chicago Cubs game, and at a number of different graduation-related activities.

Alumni remain engaged with MEM after graduation. Each year, MEM organizes an Industry Night to recognize and establish community among the students, alumni, and companies who value the importance of education at the intersection of engineering and business. MEM also established an Industry Advisory Board (IAB) to provide mentorship and program advice to ensure MEM is staying current with the latest industry topics and trends. The IAB includes distinguished alumni from diverse backgrounds who attend many of our networking events, including our annual advisory board meeting. MEM students are encouraged to connect with our Industry Advisory Board for mentorship and career-related advice.

We also recommend that students take advantage of the larger Northwestern community by joining student clubs, participating in competitions, and investigating ways to connect with the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA). More than anything else, this provides incredible networking opportunities for MEM students.

Beyond the lessons they learn in the classroom, I think networking is one of the most important factors that influence whether students enroll in MEM. Gaining access to not only the expansive MEM community, but also alumni from the McCormick School of Engineering as well as Northwestern overall is an incredible opportunity. Northwestern University is an amazing place. There are so many resources and events, that many times there isn’t enough time in a week to participate in everything. Additionally, I've found that due to the plethora of opportunities, many of the really unique opportunities are organic in nature or spread by word of mouth based on past student experiences. One such example is the networking that's developed within the budding startup ecosystem on campus and throughout Chicago.

MEM has had students enroll in NUvention or become involved in a budding startup through The Garage, Northwestern's own incubator. There have also been site visits to incubators and other startup-related organized across Chicago like 1871, mHUB, and UI LABS.

Students also collaborate and network through student competitions, like the MEMPC Design & Pitch, MEMPC PriSim Business War Games, or VentureCat competitions. Students have also found unique ways to network thanks to the NAA through activities like Dinner with Twelve or the NEXT program to connect with alumni and learn about potential careers of interest. There are also amazing guest speakers invited to campus by university schools and departments, with the most recent being Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. 

Simply stated, Northwestern MEM is a career catalyst. MEM features an amazing community that offers resources, events, and networking opportunities to help our students grow. When a student is able to take full advantage of these opportunities, the return on investment is priceless.