As I finished my undergraduate program, I was confronted with a big decision. I was admitted to a PhD program at Purdue in Industrial engineering, but I was also offered positions at Motorola and Inland Steel. I took the Motorola job, abandoning my PhD. The path that I took much later in life, the path to the PhD, was not something I thought I would ever finish. I saw myself as a practitioner, so I chose the professional master’s degree, one not intended to focus on research.
My MEM degree focused on applying concepts from the existing body of knowledge to real world problems and scenarios. When I eventually sought my PhD, I learned that the PhD is intended to add to the existing body of knowledge without a focus on immediate application or impact on practice. Alternatively, the professional master’s degree builds on the undergraduate experience with more advanced concepts and content, while also building upon your experience as a working professional to bridge the scholar-practitioner gap. Many MEM students have taken a concept from the classroom and found almost immediate application in the workplace. Some of our students have been promoted and others have earned new responsibilities as a result. I hope you all take the opportunity to take the learnings from the classroom and find immediate use for this knowledge in your workplace.