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

Director of Dartmouth's Master of Engineering Management Program Reflects on Retirement

By Anna Fiorentino
March 2013 • Thayer By Degrees: MEM

Master of Engineering Management (MEM) Director and trailblazer Robert Graves will in September retire from a much different Thayer School than the one he walked into ten years ago—and that is no coincidence. At the road where engineering meets management, the John H. Krehbiel Sr. Professor for Emerging Technologies improved the program by developing curriculum and courses and initiating both the Corporate Collaboration Council and the MEM Programs Consortium (MEMPC). Now, in September, he will continue on to greener pastures at his 46-acre farm outside Amherst, Massachusetts.

What made you decide to retire?

Retiring will allow me to devote more time to my family and to bring new ideas for further improvement to the MEM program via a new director.

What will you take with you when you leave Dartmouth?

The educational philosophy of Dartmouth and Thayer, Thayer’s approach to project-centered engineering education, and memories of the MEM student body. Of the many classes I’ve taught, my favorite is ENGM 186: Technology Project Management that I co-teach with Dr. Edward March which, along with ENGM 178: Technology Assessment, I created. The course addresses an established field, but the field tends to be treated in two entirely separate ways depending on whether it is taught in engineering or taught in management. We develop new real-world contexts for each homework assignment and exam problem every time we offer the course. We use some case studies—with the latest being the Boeing 787—we have three excellent invited speakers, and we regularly get some Tuck students with the MEMs in the class. It is popular because it gives content that is immediately helpful to MEMs in their ENGG 390 internship project, and also their careers.

How has Dartmouth and its MEM program evolved since you came on board?

I created the Corporate Collaboration Council, which helps MEM students plan their career path, as well as the MEMPC, a network of recognized university graduate level programs in engineering management. I also improved the curriculum, and helped grow the MEM program. At Thayer, the PhD Innovation Program is now in effect, and the contracted research is greater in volume than when I arrived nearly a decade ago. Thayer has a new building with new labs, equipment and staff, giving the MEM program a home and the space to accommodate increased enrollment.

Overall, what have you gained from working at Dartmouth?

I’ve had great experiences with students interested in the profession of engineering and technology management, which has been different than all of my prior experience with MS and PhD students who have pursued research directions. I enjoyed creating two new courses, with a free hand in content and approach for development and delivery. I will take with me many friendships and relationships with colleagues at Thayer, Tuck, and up campus, as well as those with whom I’ve worked at schools including MIT, Duke, Cornell and Northwestern, as a MEMPC member. I’ve also enjoyed meeting with MEM alumni at our annual Boston and NYC MEM alumni events. It’s been an opportunity to learn about their career successes, see their enthusiasm for the MEM preparation, and to bring their success stories back to MEMs in the program.

What are your retirement plans and why now?

I will be going from an office environment to an outdoor setting, a place that my family calls “The Farm,” where we once had animals and may again when we are back full-time. Located just outside of Amherst, Massachusetts on 46 acres of pastures that my wife and I fenced in, with a barn that my father and I built, I plan to continue to design and build Shaker Style hardwood furniture in my woodshop. 

How long have you been woodworking? Is it just a hobby?

I started a long time ago building furniture for our own use. In the last eight years or so, I have produced numerous pieces in the Shaker Style and enjoy the simplicity of the design. My time dedicated to woodworking has been limited by my Dartmouth activities, and I have a backlog of requests from my family for pieces that I need to work on first. It’s a hobby for now but could expand into more.

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

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