Student and Alumni Stories

Alex Ledoux

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: May 2017

Thomas Simmons

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2017

Thomas Simmons got a degree in Engineering Management to compliment his leadership experience in the U.S. Army.

“A big part of it for me was getting a piece of paper that proves that I know what I’m talking about,” Simmons said. “Now I have something that they’ll believe. I have these skills and I can prove it, I have a master’s from these skills.”

He saw a direct influence on his career after completing his degree as he was promoted to a higher role as a facility manager at his employer because of his new skills acquired through the program.

“I feel like the degree definitely had an impact on [my job]. It definitely helped me refine some of my skill sets I am using every day,” Simmons said.

Read more about Simmons here.

Derek Ferguson

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2016


The Engineering Management program taught Ferguson important management skills that he could directly apply on the job as a team leader.

“Specifically, I’ve been applying the skills I learned in scheduling so that we can plan all of our departmental projects for next year. While attending these planning sessions, I have been able to make sure my team has work that is even through out the year, allows for a realistic 80% of their time, and is challenging work that will keep them motivated. Aside from straight managing, I’ve also been directly applying my leadership skills to make sure our team is continually improving, and that each team member has a clear development plan to progress in their career.”

Ferguson advises that prospective students “make sure you’re in a position where promotion to a management/leadership role is possible in the near future. This is not to say that some of the skills you learn won’t apply to non-management roles, but being mid-career will make their applications easier.”

To learn more about Ferguson, click here.

Sandra Villavicencio

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2016


Sandra Villavicencio learned how to deal with different people while studying in the Engineering Management program.

“In my opinion, if this skill is not properly utilized, it would be very hard to be in a management position with employees who share the vision and want to be part of a team.”

To balance the demands of a full-time job and school, Villavicencio knew that time management would be critical.

“I worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., worked out from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. and did schoolwork from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. during the weekdays. During the weekend, I did a lot more schoolwork and household chores,” she said.

However, she advises prospective students to “go for it! Every hour invested in this program is worth it.”

To learn more about Villavicencio, click here.

Matt Metzger

Online Degree: Sustainable Systems Engineering

Graduating Year: 2016

Matt Metzger is a civil engineer looking to apply creative methods to solve design problems. As an undergraduate, he took art courses to keep his creative thinking skills sharp. Metzger works at Barr Engineering Company, which provides engineering and environmental consulting services to clients worldwide. Metzger focuses on water resources engineering, including waterpark recirculation systems, municipal green infrastructure, and flood reduction projects.

When searching for a graduate program, Metzger chose the University of Wisconsin–Madison because it “has the right perspective, resources, and people to lead with such a cutting-edge program.” He said Madison has the only graduate program of its kind in the country right now and is excited to stay up-to-date in the fast-paced evolution of sustainability practices.

Steven Cechvala

Online Degree: Sustainable Systems Engineering

Graduating Year: 2014

Steven Cechvala is the president of Taiga International, LLC, a firm specializing in advanced sustainability analytics, architecture, and project management for zoos and aquariums. Cechvala said he decided to enroll in UW’s Sustainable Systems Engineering program in the fall of 2014 in order to “stay in the forefront of the design community” that is becoming more focused on recycling and other “green” initiatives.

“Thoughtful and creative sustainable applications are a strategic investment that creates a healthier and more prosperous quality of life,” Cechvala said. He looks forward to advancing his architectural knowledge and applying it to practical, cost-effective, and low-impact designs.

Geoffrey Goll

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2013

Geoffrey Goll


Goeffrey Goll, a founding partner of Princeton Hydro, credits his leadership and decision-making skills to UW-Madison’s Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program.

“The program provided me with insight into management and leadership theory that I simply did not learn as an undergraduate,” Goll said.  “The program left me with an understanding of current trends in management and quality control, the tools to make educated business and project management decisions, and the foundation for being a better leader.”  

Goll has pioneered dam removals for the purpose of fish passage, has led dredging design projects, and worked on sentiment quantification in lakes and rivers in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Princeton Hydro is an engineering firm with the specific mission of providing integrated ecological and engineering consulting services. Goll is the vice president and principal engineer for Princeton Hydro, which has produced award-winning cost-effective resource management solutions for complex environmental problems since 1998.  He received his master’s in 2013. 

John Dolan

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2017

John Dolan earned a degree in Engineering Management because he wanted to continue his professional skills after having leadership experience in the U.S. Air Force.

“I wanted to continually develop myself as a professional in the engineering industry,” he said. “I wanted to keep learning and growing because it had been a while since I finished my bachelor’s degree, and I wanted to keep getting better.”

The support and understanding of his program professors helped Dolan succeed.

The professors completely understand that we have a day job and we’re trying to do school at the exact same time. They’re willing to adapt to the competing factors that we deal with on a day to day basis and they’re still committed to our success and to grow as professionals outside of normal working hours.”

Balaji Raman

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2017

Balaji Raman, a principal software engineer at General Electric, recently applied some technical presentation skills he learned while enrolled in the Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program to present a competitive analysis of GE products to his president.

Raman has been with GE for 11 years and was promoted in January. He is responsible for architecting and developing user interface software for CT scanners, as well as leading and managing global software teams. Currently, his goal is to develop the next generation of cloud based CT software solutions. In the long-term, Raman is looking to move into management, where he can lead large software teams.

Raman, who expects to graduate in May 2017, recently gave a presentation to his president on competitive analysis of GE products against other vendors. He said the MEM program gave him skills that were directly applicable to the presentation, including audience analysis and storytelling techniques.

“Carving out some time for the program is worth it for those technical folks who want to become leaders and influencers in their organization in settling the technical strategy/roadmap for their products.”

Mitriya Puguh

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2016


While studying in the Engineering Management program, Puguh learned her strengths and weaknesses as an engineering leader and individual contributor.

“The program also expanded my knowledge about other areas outside of research and development such as finance, global custom/ culture, how to communicate technical information effectively, statistical data analysis, and others…Now, I can see a problem from multiple perspectives and think about the right way to solve it.”

Specifically, she said she learned how to:

  • Communicate project progress and results to others
  • Use MiniTab and better analyze data
  • Create a development plan or request the right project work to help her grow further
  • Use project management and change management tools.

To learn more about Puguh, click here. 

Aaron Foege

Online Degree: Engine Systems

Graduating Year: 2016


In his Master’s of Engineering Engine Systems program (MEES), Aaron Foege was recruited by his peers to join groups creating engines for vast ocean liners, massive power plants and vintage aircraft.

But Foege wanted to create something different from his day-job, his team had an idea for their master’s project that would help the engineering engine systems industry.

Two years later, this idea was patented for Caterpillar Inc. On the patent, listed under “Inventors” are the names Aaron Foege, Derek Tanis and Joseph Roth.

“We had a problem that we had to solve, so we came up with a novel idea to fix that,” Foege said.

To read more about the patent, click here.

Alan Thomason

Online Degree: Engine Systems

Graduating Year: 2015

Alan Thomason has worked at Ilmor Engineering, Inc., as chief engineer and then technical director. Thomason works with open wheeled auto racing and high performance offshore boats. He applied for the MEES degree after his co-worker recommended it for being a program that applied directly to his work. After completing the program, Thomason appreciated the practicality of the courses and the annual face-to-face meetings with his cohort.

Thomason also indicated that the MEES program was completely different from his previous education experience with huge class sizes. “With the web forums I had much more contact and interaction with students and instructors than in my bachelors program,” he said. “The cohort sizes are a good size – not so big that you feel anonymous, but enough that you see a broad range of perspective.”

Thomason valued the forums that allowed him to learn from the experience of other engineers. “Hearing from the other students from a variety of backgrounds gives insight into how other industries approach the same problems,” he said. The library resource was another asset, according to Thomason. “The staff proves that Google searches pale in comparison to a skilled researcher.”

“Some of the lessons can be literally life changing,” Thomason said. He anticipates job opportunities presenting themselves after completing the MEES program. “There is a tendency in technical fields not to network due to natural personality traits and fear of releasing critical information,” he said. “The MEES program puts you in contact with a broad range of engineers from engine programs and other industries in a relaxed environment.”

Matt Hilgendorf

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2013


Matt Hilgendorf is currently leading an operations transformation as a value stream manager at Atkore International, which manufactures and distributes electrical raceway products. Recently, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) presented him with the 2018 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award.

“Since graduating in 2013, I’ve been very fortunate to be sought out for several leadership roles in different organizations.”

He was raised in Wisconsin, so he chose UW-Madison because of the proximity and reputation.

“I chose the [Engineering Management] program after researching MBA program after MBA program, then discovering that [UW-Madison] catered to professionals in my situation.”

Aaron Bartel

Online Degree: Engineering Management

Graduating Year: 2010


Aaron Bartel was honored with Boeing’s Special Invention Award in 2013, just three years after he earned a Master of Engineering in Professional Practice from UW-Madison (now known as the Master of Engineering: Engineering Management program). 

Bartel’s award is presented to individuals and teams whose inventions prove to be most valuable to Boeing and the future of aerospace. Bartel was part of a team that invented a soluble tooling for complex parts fabrication.   

“Being a Boeing Special Inventor means thinking outside of traditional concepts and ideas to come up with unconventional solutions to technical challenges,” Bartel said. “I’m personally driven to pursue innovation for the satisfaction of having a small part in shaping the aerospace industry.”  

Bartel, who was with Boeing for nine years, now works as a materials developer in thermoplastic composites for Nike.