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UNL Online Programs Provide Flexibility for Working Engineers
by Anne Corrigan, UNL Extended Education and Outreach
Three years after earning her bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2003, Angel McMullen-Gunn decided she was ready to pursue further education.
She had plenty of options. As an engineer with Hamilton Sundstrand in York, Neb., McMullen-Gunn had the benefit of an employee scholar program that would allow her study time, as well as tuition and book reimbursement, for attending the college of her choice.
"I needed a flexible program because I work full-time and also have to travel a lot for work," explained McMullen-Gunn. After researching master's programs throughout the country, she discovered the perfect program was offered from her alma mater. She enrolled in UNL's online Master of Engineering, Concentration in Engineering Management program.
Familiarity with UNL's engineering faculty was a big draw for her, but the online courses were also an attractive aspect of the program. Although the online class format took some getting used to, McMullen-Gunn said this was the best part of the program.
"I could go to class in my pajamas on my couch. The professors were also very understanding of work schedules and were willing to work with you. They understand that you are a working professional just like they are."
In addition to providing flexibility, the online format also allowed McMullen-Gunn to work with students from around the world, a collaboration skill she's already put to good use in her current job.
"This was a new hurdle, because I had never worked with so many people to put together a presentation," she said. "Once we learned how to do that, it was a big focus of the program. By the end of the program, I was used
to collaborating with people from different backgrounds. This has really helped in my job, as I work with people from many different areas of the world."
McMullen-Gunn said she was also pleased with UNL's program because of the unique combination of engineering and business classes.
"The core courses within the program, such as Total Quality Management and Risk Analysis, have helped me understand the quality side of manufacturing, a pretty important factor in aerospace engineering. The management and business courses helped me prepare capital projects and to understand my employees' responsibilities better and what they need to do their job and what I need to provide them to do so."
Putting that knowledge to work holds an unmatched value. After failure on a test stand occurred at one of her company's plants, McMullen-Gunn was asked to address why the malfunction occurred.
"I was better prepared to respond to the situation and played a key role in preparing a white paper for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). I use what I learned [in the program] daily," she said.
McMullen-Gunn finished the master's program in just 18 months and graduated in August 2007. She believes the program has helped her better position herself with her future career goals, and noted, "You can't always see the benefits immediately, but these programs really help you expand what you can do."