ELIM graduate program enhances engineer's capabilities in U.S. Navy


By Samantha Chavanic

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineering Corps, Penn State alumna Elizabeth Huber was looking for a way to enhance her professional skill set—particularly because her job as an engineer staff officer at the United States Central Command’s (USCENTCOM) Logistics and Engineering Directorate focuses on project management and leading teams.  

When she came across information about Penn State’s master of engineering (M.Eng.) in engineering leadership and innovation management (ELIM), offered by the Engineering Leadership Development (ELD) program, Huber knew it was exactly what she was searching for.

“I had the technical skills from my undergraduate electrical engineering degree,” she said. “The M.Eng. would teach me the skills I need to be a better leader.”

After enrolling in the ELIM program, Huber, along with other ELIM and engineering design graduate students, attended Design Thinking Week, a program held at the Hasso-Plattner-Institut in Germany. The one-week workshop provides students with first-hand experience to design thinking and its use as a human-centered approach to creatively solve complex problems in diverse teams. Huber’s travel to the workshop was supported by the ELD program. 

“It was a cool way to meet people from around the world and bond with my ELIM classmates while learning about an innovative way to solve problems,” she said.

In addition to her trip to Germany, Huber also traveled to General Motors’ headquarters in Detroit as part of her ENGR 408: Leadership Principles course

“It was fun to test drive cars and learn about how recent engineering graduates are applying their degrees,” she said.

In the classroom discussions, Huber used her experiences in the Navy to provide examples of situations engineers might face.

“Her reflections on her experiences allowed others to learn how to apply leadership within a technical context,” Meg Handley, associate director of engineering leadership outreach and assistant teaching professor, said. “Her stories echoed the ELIM program’s focus on the importance of both technical acumen and interpersonal skills when learning how to lead engineers.”

Since graduating in 2018 and checking into USCENTCOM’s base in July 2018, Huber has been placed in multiple leadership roles. She led the rewrite for USCENTCOM's regulation for construction standards for its area of responsibility. She is also in charge of Exercise-Related Construction at the CENTCOM-level. In that role, she tracks funding and progress for construction projects that support military exercises with host nation partners. Huber also coordinates weekly video teleconferences between U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force engineers.

Huber credits her coursework in ENGR 802: Engineering Across Cultures and Nations with helping her to better navigate across teams with members from different countries and cultures.

“My command has a lot of international military officers that make up a coalition—about 50 countries have representatives working at USCENTCOM,” she said. “In the past 10 months, I’ve already been to four new countries—Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan. I actually referenced the “Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands” textbook before my first international trip and found many of the lessons I learned in that course useful.”

It’s these experiences that highlight to Huber how much the ELIM program helped to make her a more well-rounded engineer.

“It [M.Eng. in ELIM] gives me a stronger resume and increases my chances of being promoted in the future,” she said. “The program has the best professors who really care about helping students succeed.”


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Megan Lakatos


A woman wearing a blue graduation cap and gown poses for a photo on the Penn State Nittany Lion, a sculpture of a mountain lion.

Huber graduated from Penn State with her master of engineering in engineering leadership and innovation management in 2018.


Huber serves as an engineer staff officer at the USCENTCOM Logistics and Engineering Directorate.

It [M.Eng. in ELIM] gives me a stronger resume and increases my chances of being promoted in the future. The program has the best professors who really care about helping students succeed.” 

-Elizabeth Huber, '18 M.Eng., ELIM



The School of Engineering Design and Innovation delivers effective engineering education and unrivaled research opportunities through active, collaborative, project-based, and professionally oriented classroom experiences. The school offers a variety of programs that partner faculty, students, and industry in the study of real-life engineering problems. Our programs teach students to solve real-life problems with innovative solutions. 

School of Engineering Design and Innovation

304 Engineering Design and Innovation Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-865-2952