Partners in Advancing Leaders

A collaboration among Northwestern’s EMDC and MPM programs and the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) provides tuition support to qualifying candidates whose mission is to improve critical infrastructure owned by the United States.

A partnership linking two Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science programs and the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) is designed to develop leaders focused on improving parts of the nation’s vital infrastructure. 

The collaboration between Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program, its Master of Science in Project Management (MPM) program, and SAME has been ongoing for years. It offers tuition support to qualifying EMDC and MPM students who are active-duty military, veteran, or civilian SAME members. 

The EMDC and MPM programs are training leaders whose capabilities can be tapped to support federal projects geared toward improving critical infrastructure like government buildings, bridges, waterways, shorelines, dams, and other important facilities and structures. 

But the benefits to students go even further. 

“Partnerships have to be of value to all the stakeholders involved, and this one most definitely is of value to the Northwestern students,” said Kevin Lovell, a member of the SAME Academy of Fellows and board member for its Lake Michigan post. “There's tremendous opportunity for professional mentorship with individuals who work in various elements of the private sector, not just design and not just construction.” 

That’s because SAME brings together public sector agencies and private industry for collaboration on massive projects requiring input and work from a wide variety of technical disciplines, as well as to address emerging engineering-related issues including cybersecurity, environmental remediation, sustainability, and resilience.

SAME was founded in 1920, just after World War I, when the federal government recognized the value of the engineers it relied upon during the conflict. The original goal was to build a collaborative relationship that united the architecture, engineering, and construction communities in the private sector and the federal government.

Since then, the organization has grown to over 25,000 members and has become a key part of the government’s plans to build and maintain federal infrastructure. Lovell points to the realities faced by the Army Corp of Engineers as an example of the interdependence between SAME members and the federal government.

“Between 30 and 50 percent of design on Army Corps of Engineers’ projects is done by private sector firms, and 100 percent of the construction is done by private sector firms,” he said. “So you can see we have to have a collaborative relationship with the private sector to execute our congressionally mandated responsibilities and congressionally funded programs each year.”

The partnership extends from SAME and the EMDC program to the MPM program because of the key role project managers play in coordinating the various parts of these massive endeavors.

“Professional engineers and professional architects and professional surveyors, they're a member of the team,” Lovell said. “It’s the project management community that helps coordinate the different disciplines and help make it into reality.”

The partnership with SAME is one MPM and EMDC director Shelley Finnigan finds important for the program’s students and the industry as a whole.

“Like SAME, the EMDC and MPM programs are dedicated to developing leaders whose talents can serve the myriad of industries connected to the built environment sector,” Finnigan said. “Formally recognizing that alignment through financial support of qualifying SAME members enables us to advance the talents of skilled engineers and architects so they may go beyond designing and building solutions to unique infrastructure challenges and lead the projects and firms that tackle them."

The partnership is tailor-made to support critical needs across aging infrastructure owned by the United States. Many dams and levees were built nearly 100 years ago, and government investment in such infrastructure has fallen since 1970, according to the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. It took a deep drop in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic and is just now returning to 2015 levels.

While that is a problem for the country, it is an opportunity for EMDC and MPM students, Lovell said.

“We have a lot more engineering work to do as we look to modernize and improve our infrastructure,” he said. “That's not just our dams and levees, but it's also our rivers, our inland navigation and port system, our roads, our airports – all of our transportation networks are at or past their lifecycle. Our nation is going to need a lot more engineers.”

McCormick News Article