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Putting MPD2’s Future in Focus

The program’s Industry Advisory Board met in person for the first time to sharpen strategies to attract the best students and develop them for post-graduation career success.

An Industry Advisory Board (IAB) can help sharpen the focus of the program it's advising. 

That is exactly what Jim Wicks was hoping would happen when he created the IAB for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program in 2022. Wicks, the MPD2 director, met virtually with the IAB for the first time in the fall.  

Jim Wicks, MPD2 Program DirectorThis spring, the group met in person for the first time, and Wicks left the meeting with the renewed focus he hoped the IAB would provide.  

“I walked away really, really energized,” Wicks said. “It made me really appreciate even more than before the quality and the engagement of the people who we have on the board.”  

The group includes a cross-section of industry leaders in the product design and development world, including:  

The meeting featured a comprehensive review of where the MPD2 program is today, interactions with current students to get a better idea of its pluses and pain points, and a discussion on what projects would help move MPD2 to the next level. 

Discussions focused on two key areas:  

The second area involved a deep dive into the types of companies the MPD2 program draws students from, and the kinds of companies where students go after graduation and find the most success.  

“We had a really great conversation around those company types and really understanding which ones are our primary targets,” Wicks said. “It’s about finding great quality students and also companies that would really gain an immense amount of value from having their employees come to a program like ours.”  

The meeting gave time for IAB members to have lunch with current students. That, Wicks said, proved to be extremely valuable.  

“This is a great opportunity for each board member to sit with the students and get their candid feedback about how things are going with their experiences,” he said. “They shared a lot of really good feedback.”  

The gathering wrapped with a discussion to summarize what the board members heard and what the next steps were to move the program forward. Among those items is a revamped surveying structure to get better feedback from current students on how their journey is going and a potential overhaul of the capstone project.   

Wicks said he is still looking to add people to the board. The goal is to ensure the IAB reflects the same drive for diversity found in the faculty and student body. The first meeting showed the IAB is on the right track, Wicks said, and is made up of the right mix of industry leaders. 

“The reason they are in senior leadership roles is because they are constantly refreshing themselves and continuing to look forward,” Wicks said. “They are really strong thinkers and  excellent doers.”  

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