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MPD2 Celebrates 20 Years

Alumni returned to campus this fall to interact with current students and share how the program made a difference in their lives and their careers.

Alumni of the MPD2 program

Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program celebrated its 20th anniversary this fall with a reception for current students and alumni.  

The event was an opportunity for MPD2 graduates to return to campus, reconnect with fellow classmates and former faculty members, and inspire current students who are looking to follow in their footsteps.  

For Nicolas Vivas-Gonzalez (MPD2 '22), it was an opportunity to thank program administrators and staff for helping change the trajectory of his career. Vivas-Gonzalez was a senior mechanical design engineer at Boeing when he started MPD2. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his work was done entirely remotely, which allowed him to move to Evanston and take MPD2 classes while working full-time. 

What he discovered during his time in the program was a passion for product management. Today, he is an associate product manager at Capital One, a role he would never have dreamed of before MPD2.  

"It was definitely a turning point for me in my career and my life," he said.  

Amber Hall (MPD2' 20) said she felt the same way. She also was an engineer when she began the MPD2 part-time program. Today she is Kohler's global product leader for bathing, showering, bath faucets, and finishes. In that role, she is responsible for crafting product strategies and leading a team of product managers who are responsible for executing on those strategies.  

"The curriculum is designed to help you take the coursework into your day-to-day work," Hall said. "I was able to learn things on a Friday or Saturday and apply them on Monday, and that helped me naturally transition to where I am today." 

MPD2 director Jim Wicks said the event — which was held in partnership with Northwestern's Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) program that was celebrating its 15th anniversary — was designed as an opportunity to look back, but also to look ahead.  

"When you have a reunion like this, you come to appreciate the legacy of the program and how many people have contributed to it," he said. "It's inspiring to see how many people have come away from MPD2 and created great value for themselves and for other people. 

"It's also fun to see the current students interact with alumni from 10 or 15 years ago, hear their stories, and hopefully be inspired to follow their lead and make a difference." 

Wicks said the energy at the event was exciting and contagious — especially for him. 

"Selfishly, it means a lot to be able to see how much of a difference this program has made for people over the years," he said. "This event creates a lot of positive energy for the students, for the alumni, and for us as faculty and administrators. It helps remind us why we spend every day trying to make MPD2 the best program it can be." 

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