Telecom Has Fast-Changing Industry's Number

When Jeff Houston looks back on the undergraduate courses he took to earn a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications management, “it was pretty basic,” he said. 

At that point, Houston had already been a telecom specialist in the U.S. Army, in which he enlisted after high school, and had more than a decade of experience in the field. So he was pretty discerning when it came to pursuing a master’s degree. 

For Houston, who works at Sonus Networks and is a contractor for AT&T Mobility, the most important criteria for a master’s in Telecommunications Management was an up-to-date curriculum on the cutting edge of technology with an ability to take classes online. The only program that fit the bill, he said, was the one at Stevens.

“With the classes that Professor (Kevin) Ryan teaches — all the telecom courses, the protocol courses, the wireless courses — he was literally teaching the very same stuff that I was working on,” said Houston, who handles customer support for a company that sells major equipment to big carriers. “It was phenomenal how updated the syllabus was to what is actually being used in the industry — and that’s not something I’ve seen in any other programs. Usually, they’re a couple years behind of what the industry is using.”

Keeping up to date in an industry that’s undergone dramatic change in both mobility and broadband networks is a key focus in Stevens’ telecom program, Ryan said. 

“We are fortunate to teach students who are working directly in the field, from Verizon, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and others,” said Ryan, the program director. “So we get tremendous feedback from our students.”

Interdisciplinary approach

And faculty teaching telecom courses at Stevens bring a wealth of industry experience. Professors have held leadership roles at organizations for decades; Ryan’s own career traces to 1978, when he started at Bell Labs, where he remained until becoming a full-time Stevens professor in 2001.

“We teach relevant and timely technical topics while providing managerial perspective from highly qualified professors who are distinguished in both academia and industry,” Ryan said. 

That’s important to students like Houston.

“A lot of what I’ve been doing has been the technical side — I haven’t got into the project or business side,” Houston said. “But I knew that to lead people, to progress in my career, I’d eventually have to do those kinds of things, and this course really helped me.” 

A key strength of the program is the remote learning experience — part of the technology emphasis that makes Stevens distinct. 

“Unlike other schools, the entire master’s degree program was online,” Houston said. “I knew with my job — where I was traveling every week through the entire country — I wouldn’t have a problem completing coursework.”

At Stevens, the online learning experience is truly immersive. For his lectures, Ryan uses a tool that captures what he writes on a white board onto a laptop screen that’s transmitted live to remote students following along. Audio equipment allows remote students to follow the conversation, also. 

That’s not the only distance learning in which the program specializes. Ryan recently returned from Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications, in China, where he was following up on the establishment of a joint program between Stevens and CUPT. The program will send between 50 and 100 Chinese students to Hoboken over the next five years, under a memorandum of understanding signed between the two schools, Ryan said.

CUPT is a good fit, he said, because it has a telecommunications degree at the bachelor’s level, which complements Howe’s offerings. “When they visited us in February, they were particularly impressed that we offer managerial courses at the master’s level that are integrated into the curriculum,” Ryan said.

Telecom fast facts

Variety: The Telecommunications master’s degree offers concentrations in advanced technologies, general management, project management, broadband and wireless communications management, creating a customizable experience. 

Why: Ryan said most students have some understanding of engineering and technology, and come to this program to strengthen those areas and “learn how do I manage and lead a project, how do I design for the project, how do I do project management, how do I work this project through an organization.”