Online Student Spotlight: Joe Eken

Stevens graduate online space systems engineering student Joe EkenCurrently a Systems Engineer at Collins Aerospace, Joe received his master's degree in space systems engineering through our Corporate Education program.

Why were you interested in pursuing an online degree?

Collins Aerospace partnered with Stevens to offer an online "graduate certificate" as a way to dip our toes into continuing our education while we worked. I thought it would be a good chance to round out my resume, open some doors for future career opportunities, and learn about subjects that were directly applicable to my job after being in the workforce for a while.

How did you learn about Stevens?

My company had a partnership with them.

Briefly describe why you chose the Space Systems Engineering program?

I started out under a Systems and Architecture graduate certificate program because that was extremely applicable to the role I had in my career. That rounded out a lot of my requirements design, system design, and validation, etc. skills. After I completed that, the Space Systems Engineering track made the most sense because it dove into subjects like orbital dynamics and space travel which peaked my interests given my aerospace background. It was nice to be able to revisit those topics and expand on subjects I enjoyed during undergrad that I haven't gotten to spend as much time on in my real job.

What made you choose Stevens over other schools?

The convenience of the online classes and flexibility to complete my degree while still working a full-time job. It also helped that they were partnered with Collins and the track was pretty well laid out for me.

What is the demand for someone with your new skills and education?

Systems engineering skills are always needed when you start to get into technical leadership roles within a company so that is critical to career development. I think the technical space focus gives me a lot more opportunities across different aerospace sectors and areas within the company.

How has your Stevens education helped your career?

I haven't seen a ton of immediate tangible impacts, but I see it as a way to build a better foundation for myself and make it easier for promotions/opportunities in the future.

Is there a specific example you can share about the impact of your experience at Stevens?

I took a class towards the end of my degree about reliability, maintainability, and support. To be honest I wasn't sure how relevant the material would be to my work, but we got into some really interesting software reliability topics. I actually ended up writing my final project/thesis on software reliability because it captivated me so much. It also considerably broadened my knowledge on the tools/processes we use for software reliability at our company and reshaped some of the philosophical ideas I have about how to handle that subject going forward.

Why has Stevens been such a good fit to continue your education?

I would say it mostly has to do with the flexibility of the online classes. Another factor would be the expertise in technical programs and classes align very closely with my career path and interests.

How has the program's flexibility been beneficial to your career and lifestyle?

Stevens allowed me to complete a master’s degree fully online and largely at my own pace. I don't think there is any other way I could have completed an online degree while working my full-time job. It was very easy to set my own schedule, work at my own pace, and work on schoolwork when I could find time in my busy schedule. The processes for registering for classes and all of the other logistical concerns were straightforward to figure out and the staff was very responsive any time I had questions.

What surprised you the most about your online experience?

I think that it was fairly intuitive. I was a little worried about how I would handle jumping back into the academic routine after being away from it for so long in a real work environment.

Can you describe a typical course experience in the online Space Systems Engineering program?

Courses typically are structured through the canvas shell. Everything you need to know is contained on those pages for the most part. In general, the courses follow a weekly cadence with instructions for the week, recorded lectures, and some kind of weekly assignment due. The courses often contain lots of online discussion forums with other students and the professors are good about making themselves available for questions. Depending on the class, larger projects or papers might be part of the material. Beyond the weekly due dates everything else is available to be done on your time as best fits your schedule.

What would you tell someone who is considering an online degree at Stevens?

I think it's definitely a great option for someone who wants to pursue additional education but is worried about the strain/stress of fitting in school to a busy schedule filled with a career and other obligations life brings.