EMDC a Perfect Fit for Recent Grad

Joshua Neill (EMDC '20) found all he was looking for in a Master's program in EMDC — plus a new job as vice president at Keystone National Group.

When Joshua Neill (EMDC '20) began looking at Master’s programs, he had a lot of factors to consider. A priority was attending a top-tier university and enrolling in a program that would be an asset to his career. Also, he wanted to take classes that were flexible to his schedule so he could continue his work as a development manager. Most important, though, was evaluating the opportunity cost. Neill didn’t want to sacrifice his compensation while simultaneously paying for school.

All of those elements led him to Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program. Now a vice president at Keystone National Group — a job he started while in the program — Neill said EMDC was well worth it.

“I was able to select classes offered through Northwestern Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management, and Dr. Krizek’s curriculum flexibility is ultimately why I decided to go with EMDC at Northwestern,” Neill said. “The program was rigorous, but directly applicable. I didn’t have to find some arbitrary event to reference as a case study. I could take what I was actually working on in my current position and present it to other experienced professionals and get real feedback.

“Our professors have deep experience in the courses they teach, so they had a lot of sage advice that I couldn’t find in a textbook. And trust me, I’ve read almost every book on the market.”

Neill credited adjunct professor Joseph Santucci with having a great impact on his time in the EMDC program. In early 2020, Santucci explained the importance of conservative real estate underwriting practices, and how businesses can ultimately weather any storm by focusing on the disciplined underwriting in each deal. That advice turned out to be prophetic. A few weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up nearly every aspect of work and daily life, and Santucci’s lessons directly helped Neill at Keystone.

Because all students have a background in engineering and construction allows the classes to operate at a higher level. In an operations class, students studied the details of the BP Oil Spill of 2010 and how the company responded. Because the students understood the engineering and science behind why the spill took place, they could focus on the decisions to fix the problem.

"When we are learning about management or communication, it is all in the context of engineering or construction," he said. "Engineering, operations, construction, I can apply those lessons directly in my day-to-day."

Neill valued how the professors helped students examine their work through a wider lens. During the day-to-day grind of a job, he said he really focuses on specific details. But in training for executive positions, Neill realized the importance of seeing the big picture.

“Having those conversations for two hours a night, two to four days a week, was really helpful for me to grasp a macro view," he said. "Engineering and construction are really focused on details, so it was helpful to zoom out.”

Neill had a lot of requirements when he considered Master's programs, but as he looked back on his time in EMDC, he confessed that the program checked off everything on his list — and then some.  

"The program required me to commit a great deal of time, focus, and effort," he said. "It was a springboard for my career and helped me land the role I have today. The returns are worth the investment."

McCormick News Article