Engineering leadership and innovation management program enhances alumna's ability to succeed in technical role


By Cassie Kidwell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As a compact loader quality engineer for RFA Engineering, Mary Walker’s role centers around the facilitation of quality improvement team meetings. Working onsite at John Deere in Dubuque, Iowa, she investigates warranty claims in the field and communicates challenges to team members in order to help identify solutions to improve products.

Walker attributes her enhanced professional skill set, including communications and leadership skills, to her master of engineering (M.Eng.) in engineering leadership and innovation management (ELIM).

“ELIM gave me the foundational interpersonal communication skills to excel in a technical role,” she said. “ELIM [taught] me how to effectively communicate ideas and foster active discussion to lead teams to solutions to challenges.”

The M.Eng. ELIM program is 30-credit master’s program designed to develop the attributes required of today’s successful engineering executives. Walker said she gained technical competency, professional skills, the ability to identify opportunities for improvement and the ability to work effectively in a globally connected engineering environment.

“The M.Eng. in ELIM showcased that I was prepared for a technical role with facilitation responsibilities,” she said. “Having this background, my employers were able to have confidence in my communication and interpersonal skills and trust that I was ready and able to effectively lead engineering team meetings.”

One of Walker’s most memorable experiences in the program was her capstone project, creating an in-depth analysis of a strategic business plan for Walmart. For the project, she worked with Ann Echols, a Penn State professor for the School of Labor and Employee Relations. Walked said working with Echols was very beneficial as she is an expert in strategic business plans. Echol’s expertise aided Walker when reviewing Walmart’s overall management team arrangement, completing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and understanding mergers and acquisitions.

Walker encourages others to pursue ELIM to gain a more well-rounded background in the interpersonal skills needed to be a successful engineer.

“The skills that you learn in the program are directly applicable to many different workforce environments,” she said. “Most jobs require interaction with people and this program teaches how to interact with others from effective conflict resolution to leading change.” 

Walker highlighted the flexibility of the 30-credit master’s as another benefit of the program — she completed the first 15 credits during a summer semester and the final 15 credits in the following fall semester. Because of this, she was able to achieve a master’s degree in just 6 months.

“Other programs may offer areas of study related to communication and business, but they may not focus on the content in the context of a technical career,” Walker said. “My role in my career is in a technical field and material that I learned in the ELIM program is directly relatable to what I do daily.”


Share this story:

facebook linked in twitter email


College of Engineering Media Relations

“ELIM [taught] me how to effectively communicate ideas and foster active discussion to lead teams to solutions to challenges.”

-Mary Walker, ELIM alumna



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