Online Grad Program Helps Aspiring AEC Pros Reach the Next Level

TAUC is constantly on the lookout for ways that union contractors — especially those in the junior and midlevel ranks — can increase their industry knowledge and advance their careers. We invited Karen Layng, Adjunct Professor for Northwestern’s M.S. program in Executive Management for Design and Construction, to tell us more about this unique online educational opportunity. 

By Karen Lang

This story originally appeared in The Construction User, a publication of The Association of Union Constructors.

Karen Layng, EMDC Adjunct ProfessorThe mission of the Northwestern University Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science’s professionally oriented Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) graduate program is to holistically develop an elite cadre of engineers, construction managers and architects who are uniquely positioned to serve as C-suite executives and leaders in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry in the United States and around the world.

This innovative postgraduate educational program transcends the tactical engineering, design and construction operational skills needed to perform and instead emphasizes the strategic competencies and insights required to lead an organization. It imparts the requisite managerial skills and real-world know-how to midlevel construction and engineering executives, thereby fostering the development of well-rounded future leaders in the AEC industry.

The 12-course online EMDC program consists of four core courses and eight electives (Northwestern is on the quarter system and a course spans 10 weeks). The four core courses are Leadership and Organization, Finance and Accounting for Executives, Human Resource Management, and Communication and Negotiation. Popular EMDC elective courses include Advanced Business Strategy, Construction Law and Risk Management, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Due Diligence Considerations in Engineering, creating a Firm-Ambassador Culture, Information Systems in Construction, Ethics in Construction and Engineering, Systems Thinking for Sustainable Design, Strategy for Corporate Sustainability, Commercial Real Estate Investment and Development, and a number of others. 

In addition, it is possible to transfer up to three courses taken at another institution. After matriculation, each student is encouraged to develop a proposed selection of courses for the entire program rather than proceeding course by course each quarter.

A key differentiating factor — and one of the many reasons the EMDC program is considered by many as the preeminent engineering leadership M.S. program in the country — is its distinguished faculty of practicing professionals who are all industry leaders and bring a wealth of business savvy and strategic acumen to their course offerings. Students in the completely online EMDC program are employed and live throughout the United States and the world, including military outposts. The EMDC program specifically, and Northwestern University more generally, have a long history of being military-friendly and attracting veterans. For example, a veteran eligible for 9/11 benefits and supplemented by financial aid from Yellow Ribbon and the EMDC program can earn an M.S. degree with very little out-of-pocket tuition cost.

The EMDC program has been tailored to fit into busy professional lives and has produced noteworthy examples of professional achievement by its graduates. It boasts small class sizes wherein future industry leaders are afforded the opportunity to collaborate and network with professional colleagues. Without exaggeration, almost every student and graduate has explicitly expressed an extremely high degree of satisfaction with the content of the EMDC program, the competence and caring attitude of the faculty, the unanticipated benefits derived, and the role the degree has played in their professional advancement. 

Recently Melissa Meade, a current EMDC student halfway through the program, wrote that she had been promoted. In her words, “I credit my recent advancement in my company to the executive leadership topics we have been studying in the EMDC program. I’ve already implemented leadership techniques, communication skills, financial understanding, and knowledge of the bigger picture strategies quite a bit over the last year — and my C-suite has noticed! Thank you so much for your continued support and for running a program with such amazing content and instructors!”

In turn, Mohammed Elkhamissy, a 2020 graduate involved in managing a $1.4 billion international project in Qatar, states: “My pursuit of an M.S. degree in the EMDC program was

indeed a long road, but it was worth every sleepless night waking up at 2:30 AM [the interactive class discussions are scheduled at 6:30 PM CST]. The value of the program is definitely geared towards individuals like myself. I have already utilized a lot of the lessons learned about Joint Ventures, Enterprise Resource Planning implementations, facility management, and so forth. This program allows you to understand the company from a global perspective versus a project-based mentality. I’m ever so grateful for this opportunity and I am now looking forward to continuing my career in my favorite industry.”

An M.S. degree from Northwestern’s EMDC program provides the arrows in the quiver of midlevel managers to accelerate their move up to C-suite leadership and provides a preview of the solutions to future AEC problems in addition to the managerial tools needed to address the problems of today. A Northwestern Wildcat M.S. in EMDC education awaits you! Are you ready to accept the challenge?

McCormick News Article