MEMPC Executive Director Talks About Bringing MEM Community Together

Rutu Manchiganti shares how the Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) connects students and alumni from across its member schools.

The Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) is a collection of nine universities that work together to promote engineering and management programs to prospective students and a variety of professional organizations. 

Northwestern University's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program is one of nine in the consortium, along with similar programs at Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Johns Hopkins, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Purdue, Tufts, and Southern California.

Students within the MEMPC are able to connect with one another and learn from each other's unique backgrounds and educational experiences. There are other ways the MEMPC brings students together. Rutu Manchiganti, the executive director of the MEMPC, recently took time to talk about that and other benefits of the MEMPC.

How do you describe what MEM is to someone with no engineering background?

MEM is a degree that 'develops business-savvy technology leaders'. It is an interdisciplinary degree that builds upon and strengthens the engineering and technical foundation of its students along with equipping them with the business skills needed to become a leader in a technology organization.

How do you like to answer the question of the differences between a MEM degree and an MBA?

An MBA prepares students for managing organizations — any organization. It could be a consumer goods company or a logistics organization.

MEM, on the other hand, prepares students to become leaders in a technology organization. Our students have the engineering foundations to go up the technical ladder and manage technology projects if they so choose, or they can go up the management ladder and lead technology organizations.

What role do you see collaboration playing during a student's MEM experience?

I see collaboration among MEM students and alumni as an important means to build a strong MEM community that they can rely on as they grow as a professional and a leader. This is absolutely necessary because most of the MEM programs are not as big as an MBA cohort, and an MEM degree, though growing in popularity, does not yet have the same brand recognition as an MBA or a technical Masters (such as MS in Computer Science or Mechanical Engineering). 

MEMPC has always enabled the MEM program directors and staff at the MEMPC schools to connect, share updates, experiences, and best practices, and learn from each other at our semi-annual meetings. Along with that, we have sub-committees that meet monthly and also allow for more interaction and knowledge sharing among the schools on particular topics.

How does the MEMPC further foster that collaboration among different schools?

From its inception, the MEMPC has always enabled its MEM programs to connect, share their experiences and best practices, and learn from each other.

We recently hosted the seventh annual MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition, which allowed students to simulate a multi-billion auto manufacturing company. Students from Northwestern's MEM program won that competition.

Earlier this year, we organized the first Design & Pitch competition, which gave the students from the MEMPC schools an opportunity to not only showcase their engineering and business skills, but also connect with students from other schools and expand their network beyond the classmates and alumni from their school. A panel of MEM alumni working in the energy industry judged the competition, and that enabled them to connect with other MEM alumni working in their industry as well as see what the students from the various MEM programs had to offer.

We also organized an Alumni Mixer after the competition to enable the students and local alumni from various MEMPC schools to connect with each other, which I hope will lead to a more collaborative and close-knit MEMPC community. 

It was really amazing for me to see students and alumni build new connections and discover old ones. For example, a few students from various MEMPC schools discovered that they were going to be interning at the same company that summer. Another student connected with an alum, who coincidentally also came from his hometown in Europe. Some students and alums from different MEM schools recognized each other because they had studied at the same undergraduate school in India.

Since then, I have seen more students reaching out to students from other schools when they are looking for information and resources. 
I have also had alumni reaching out to the MEMPC as part of their recruiting efforts as they realize that MEMPC can give access to a broader MEM community of students and alumni for their hiring needs.

What other work does the MEMPC do to help strengthen a MEM student's experience?

The Design & Pitch Competition and the Alumni Mixer were some of the more recent MEMPC initiatives undertaken to bring the MEMPC community together. The competition was organized to give the MEM students an opportunity to showcase their engineering chops and business acumen by coming up with technical solutions to sustainably power a growing urban city while also being financially viable and sound. Having an Organizing Committee made up of students from the various MEM schools also gave the students on the committee an opportunity to not only connect and work with each other but also to practice their leadership skills.

We are currently in the process of figuring out what are some of the other needs of our students and alumni community and what else MEMPC can do to enhance the experience of MEM students and alumni.