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Faculty perspective on Academic Equivalency: Rick Grandrino

Sep 22, 2022
Mrunmayi Joshi

Here is an interview with Rick Grandrino of Drexel University which talks about his experience and perspective as faculty of the academic equivalency program. Happy SEPtember! 

Rick Grandrino
This interview was done in 2022.

Q1. What is your role related to INCOSE’s Academic Equivalency?

»  I am faculty and director of the Drexel University, College of Engineering Systems Engineering Master of Science Degree program.

Q2. What is one of your proudest professional achievements?

» Developing the Systems Engineering Master of Science degree program at Drexel was the accomplishment that I am most proud of. This program was launched in the fall of 2014. The programs follows the rich tradition of the Drexel College of Engineering by providing an education that prepares students to be successful in industry. In developing the program, we worked with an experienced industry advisory board a to determine program needs by industry. We also conducted a survey of the top ranked systems engineering programs and contrasted to industry needs in order to create a comprehensive and effective systems engineering program that is different than most others.

Q3. What skills do you think a systems engineer should develop during their education?

» The mission of our systems engineering program is to develop systems engineers and leaders that meet customer and industry needs of today and tomorrow. Our students learn skills and knowledge to solve complex problems. Systems engineering is different from traditional engineering as it is an interdisciplinary field of engineering that draws upon a variety of disciplines. A systems engineer is often referred to as a “jack of all trades” as they possess knowledge of many different fields such as hardware development, software, analysis of alternatives skills, design engineering and project management to name a few. A systems engineer needs to have the ability to think within the context of a systems point of view. This involves understanding of the system linkages and interactions between the subsystems and components that comprise the entirety of the system. An effective systems engineer needs to have the following skills:
- A thorough understanding of the systems engineering process - Knowledge of the Life Cycle Stages of the systems development process and the engineering activities required for each stage
- The ability to think in context of entire system or a holistic thinking approach
- Understanding the interconnection and relationships of a system and the concept of systems thinking
- Ability to conduct thorough and rigorous requirements analysis
- Leadership ability to guide the execution of the systems engineering process
- Analytical skills to evaluate decision alternatives with quantitative factors and data analytics so as to choose the best alternate course of action
- Understanding of use of models and model based systems engineering (MBSE) to provide solutions and designs for complex problems and systems development.

Q4. What was your university’s motivation behind joining the academic equivalency program?

» It is important that the foundation of our systems engineering degree program be linked to the INCOSE society as well as industry. Achieving academic equivalency ensures that our program meets industry standards and needs.

Q5. What do you see as the benefits of the academic equivalency program for a university and a student?

» For a university, the benefit is an acknowledgement that our program meets the high quality industry standards. For a student, academic equivalency provides a path to achieve systems engineering professional certification by the INCOSE society.

Q6. What methods do you use to teach SE courses effectively?

» We have designed a program of courses that effectively teaches students how to execute the systems engineering process. We also focus on developing skills and knowledge that are required by systems engineers. We do this through a learning process taught by experienced professors who worked as systems engineers in the industry. Additionally, our students get to work on projects so that they can apply the systems engineering process to real world applications. Additionally, our courses are offered fully asynchronous online.

Q7. How do your SE courses help students to deepen their understanding of systems engineering?

» All of the courses focus on application. They are taught by faculty with experience of the course they teach. Also, the assignments are usually in the form of projects and / or real world applications so students can learn how to execute what they are learning.

Q8. How do your SE courses differ from those at other universities?

» All our courses are taught by faculty who have significant experience through working in industry. Therefore, students get to learn about the art and science of systems engineering through experienced practitioners. Our students can apply what they learn effectively and hit the ground running. Also, the program can be tailored to meet each students’ specific goals. This is a major differentiator with our program is that there is flexibility to design a program that meets students specific career needs and desires. Students can focus to be general systems engineer, or focus more, on perhaps, reliability engineering, hardware engineering or a logistician or software development or leadership roles such a technical director and / or systems engineering program manager. We offer the ability for students to tailor a specific program that provides that provides them with coursework to ascertains those skills. We also continually update and revise our program based on feedback and needs of our systems engineering advisory board, industry partners and the INCOSE society. We take a systems engineering approach to continually revise, upgrade and keep our program current in order to meet the needs of industry.

Q9. What is your advice for universities or institutes considering applying for academic equivalency?
» Be patient as it is a tedious process. Be sure to adhere to the INCOSE guidelines and principles for courses related to academic equivalency. Consider being a CAB and Academic member and stay active with INCOSE as they are connected to the systems engineering industry.

Q10. How can we reach out to you?

» You can reach me at : https://www.linkedin.com/in/richard-grandrino-57814a4

Know more on academic equivalency here
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