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Systems engineering master's degree offered online for first time through College of Engineering

Living and working across an ocean is no longer a hindrance to earning an engineering master's degree from Cornell.

For the first time, the College of Engineering is offering an online master's degree. The program, in systems engineering, has received accreditation from the New York State Department of Education and is now accepting applications.

Aimed at the working professional, the Systems Engineering Distance-Learning Degree Program comprises instruction-based and project learning, and requires at least a year of industry experience from applicants.

While enrolled, students are required to spend two one-week sessions on campus for two credits to meet with project team members and network with faculty and other students. The rest of their course work can be done remotely and spread over several years, if necessary.

Peter L. Jackson, director of the Systems Engineering Program and a professor in the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering, said coordinators have placed special emphasis on creating a program that, while demanding, is prepared to support its students from start to finish.

"We understand the stresses on the lives of distance-learning students," Jackson said. "They have a full-time job, and they are often supporting families at the same time. So we are trying to put in place a program that can serve their needs." Meanwhile, he added, "the academic standards for admission and success within Cornell University don't change."

Such a program had long been in demand from such industry partners as Xerox, General Motors and Lockheed Martin, Jackson said. Systems engineering, the discipline of designing processes for achieving an engineering goal, is inherently rooted in high-tech industry.

The school had already been partnering with Lockheed Martin to offer master's-level education to employees. About 60 students are currently enrolled in online systems engineering courses, including a Cornell ROTC instructor serving in Iraq.

The online degree requires 30 credit hours, 21 of which are distance-learning lecture courses with homework and exams. Lectures are recorded in Ives Hall and posted online. The rest of the degree includes the two-credit campus requirement and an intensive systems engineering design project.

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