Corporate Connections: Launching a Robust Partnership with Raytheon

Summer 2009

When Raytheon Company was looking to augment its systems engineering education for its top engineers, the company had its pick of universities nationwide.

In the end, the company selected the Whiting School of Engineering’s Engineering for Professionals (EP) program to offer the innovative Master of Science in Systems Engineering to an initial group of 130 employees at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Arizona. JHU-EP’s ability to make the curriculum relevant to its industry partners, to offer courses taught by instructors with systems engineering experience, to incorporate learning objectives applicable to the workplace, and to have courses at Raytheon sites, were key factors in making the partnership possible.

“This is a very exciting partnership,” says Allan W. Bjerkaas, associate dean for the school’s EP programs. “We expect to see a strong benefit to both Raytheon and Johns Hopkins. Raytheon engineers will earn a degree in Systems Engineering and Hopkins instructors will cross-pollinate ideas with the Raytheon co-instructors.”

From Raytheon’s perspective, “This curriculum provides a critical element in our strategy to promote a systems engineering approach throughout our product life cycle,” notes Missile Systems Engineering Vice President Bob Lepore.“We also appreciate that employees can take advantage of online learning and on-site classes, while completing work-relevant projects.”

The program is innovative because it allows Hopkins educators to design cutting-edge programs targeted at specific needs. In this case, Raytheon will use systems engineering eduction to aid in their work as the world’s leading designers, developers, and producers of complex systems.

The program follows on the heels of two other successful corporate partnerships. In the 1990s, Hopkins’ EP program launched its first partnership with BAE Systems, a global defense and aerospace company. EP also has teamed up with MITRE Corporation, a technology nonprofit organization.

Under the latest program, 130 engineers at Raytheon Missile Systems have enrolled to receive their MS. An initial 24-student cohort started the first of 10 required courses in January. New cohorts start about every 10 weeks. As interest grows, other business units will add additional cohorts with the curriculum tailored to the local unit needs. Students will complete the curriculum in two years, compared to three years in a conventional on-campus setting. “The program is accelerated by about 30 percent,” says Bjerkaas.

Employees take nine consecutive nine-week courses and one 14-week capstone project course that requires they demonstrate their skill and knowledge of systems engineering. Weekly class sessions combine traditional and distance learning. Hopkins professors teach in Tucson on the first, fifth, and last class sessions of the courses. Other class sessions are conducted over the Internet using Sakai, Polycom, and Adobe Connect. Each weekly class lasts four hours.

At least two Hopkins instructors, some of whom are from the Applied Physics Laboratory, teach each course. They are assisted by at least one company employee, hired as an additional instructor.

“This way the courses will be tailored to Raytheon’s business,” Bjerkaas says.

Bjerkaas expects such partnerships to be a model for the future—allowing the nation’s top corporate engineers to receive a valuable Hopkins education without missing a beat on their day jobs.