Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

A Conversation with Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin

By Anna Fiorentino
May 2014 • Thayer By Degrees: MEM

The new interim director of Dartmouth’s Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, Professor Benoit Cushman-Roisin, brings 24 years of teaching experience at Thayer School as well as expertise in industrial ecology, sustainable design, and environmental engineering. His love for Thayer led him to serve the institution in multiple ways over the years, once as associate dean in the mid 1990s, more recently by spearheading the re-accreditation process, and now as interim director of the MEM program. “When the dean asked me whether I would like to serve as director of the MEM program, I did not hesitate to accept,” says Cushman-Roisin, who is also busy developing new project ideas for his students in sustainable design and writing a couple of books. We got a glimpse of the MEM program through the eyes of its new leader:

Benoit Cushman-Roisin

How have you seen Thayer and more specifically the MEM program evolve over the years?

When I arrived, the Jackson Conference Room and Spanos Auditorium were brand new. Actually, I interviewed in the dust and noise of the constructions in 1989. Since then we have grown significantly and added the MacLean Engineering Sciences Center. As for the MEM degree program, it went from being the master of engineering for a handful of our own continuing students to a world-class engineering management program with international recruitment and enviable placement statistics.

Why is the MEM degree worthwhile for today’s engineer?

The MEM program makes complete sense at Thayer School since this is a professional degree that leads to important positions in the U.S. economy and the world at large. It is in keeping with Thayer’s mission “to prepare the most capable and faithful for the most responsible positions and the most difficult service.” And second, the program is more relevant to engineers in today's society than probably ever because innovation and entrepreneurship, which are all around us, require skills at the intersection of technology and business.

There are so many MEM students who’ve gone on to do great things. Can you share the successes of just one or two?

There are too many to count and being new on the job I still have to get acquainted with a large fraction of the program’s alumni. Two names that readily come to mind are Jessica (Tice) Pray Th’01, now associate director of program management at Genzyme, and Ariel Diaz '02 Th'04, founder and CEO of Boundless, producer of online textbooks and learning tools.  

How did Bob Graves go about passing on the torch to you before his retirement?

Bob Graves not only briefed me in the most helpful way once the dean nominated me, but he also left a program in top shape with no unresolved issues. In addition, associate director Ross Gortner has been most instrumental in guiding me through my first months. He and I see eye to eye on about everything.

Twenty-five years since its inception, where does the MEM program now stand?

The MEM Program has a well-rounded curriculum on both engineering and business sides. Recruitment of the students into the program is done in a highly productive way, which allows us to be very selective in admissions. Placement statistics of graduates do show the added value of the MEM degree. The Corporate Collaboration Council and the MEM Programs Consortium are two entities that greatly support the program from the outside to keep it healthy and at the cutting edge.

What plans do you have in store for the program?

As interim director, I do not have a mandate aside from responsible upkeep of the program. But I do see an opportunity in tweaking an already excellent curriculum. I believe that outside trends propel us to include new course offerings in the areas of data analytics (data mining), advanced operations research, and entrepreneurship for tech startups. My thoughts also include the addition of a leadership module to our professional skills course.

Tags: curriculum, entrepreneurship, faculty, leadership, M.E.M.

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