Skip to main content

The Lifelong Student

Elizabeth Jacobsen (MPD2 ‘20) took advantage of a unique alumni opportunity to continue developing her skills while working as a global technical sustainability director for the health and wellness platform at Mars.

Elizabeth Jacobsen sat alongside her classmates from Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program last quarter knowing she had something none of them had: an MPD2 degree.  

Jacobsen (MPD2 ‘20) is the global technical sustainability director for the health and wellness platform at Mars, the confectionary, food, and petcare products company. Despite being a few years removed from her official time in the MPD2 program, she took advantage of an MPD2 alumni lifetime learning opportunity to audit a course.  

Elizabeth JacobsenJacobsen selected Sustainability in the Product Development Process to quench her thirst for learning and stay current on the latest developments in her field.  

“Offering this opportunity sets MPD2 apart from other programs by providing an incredible value to alumni that's simply not found in other programs,” she said. “It's always great to be back on campus to visit faculty and current students and take some time to invest in myself.” 

The course fits well with the work Jacobsen has done for Mars since her MPD2 graduation. Her role centers on collaborating with health and wellness business units to craft their sustainability strategies and developing a roadmap for carbon emissions reductions. 

Jacobsen leads technical sustainability efforts for Mars brands such as KIND, Nature's Bakery, and Tru Fru. The job focuses on collaborating with the brands’ marketing and technical teams to develop and execute sustainability strategies, with the goal of reducing the brands' impact on the environment while delighting consumers. 

“Working in sustainability, you're constantly learning and dealing with change, both internally within your organization and externally within the market,” she said. “Continued learning has always been something that I've loved and find incredibly fulfilling.”  

Jacobsen has been on something of a whirlwind adventure since her MPD2 graduation. She started with Mars in January 2020 as a principal scientist for product and package development of KIND International. Then, in October 2021, she was promoted into her current role.  

The setting for her work days is as varied as the work itself, she said.  

“Some days I'll be out in the almond fields in California, other days at the KIND office in Times Square,” she said. “One of the things that makes my job so great is that no day is ever the same.” 

Jacobsen was already a corporate veteran when she decided to further her education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in packaging in 2006 and then worked for the Kraft Heinz Company, Nestlé, and The Bel Group.  

The opportunity to learn more and advance her career ultimately led her to seek out a master’s program.  

“I considered MBA programs but found MPD2 to be the best combination of more classic MBA-type courses but with the addition of some of the foundational design work that an MBA didn't offer,” she said. “MPD2 allowed me to build on my technical foundation by elevating my skills in finance, accounting, consumer insights, and overall business.   

"It has enabled me to think more like a business leader, not just a technical contributor." 

Combine her appreciation for what she was taught in the MPD2 program with her love of learning, and Jacobsen intends to be a familiar face on the Northwestern campus.  

“Continued learning helps me keep my skills sharp,” she said. “I plan to attend more courses this year.” 


Back to top