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This past fall, nineteen Y-12 National Security Complex employees finished their first semester in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s new engineering management graduate program.

The first engineering management graduate course cohort
The first engineering management graduate course cohort

The two-year accelerated program, which bestows a master’s degree in industrial engineering with a concentration in management, was designed to provide more leadership opportunities for Y-12 employees. It also increases the number of UT graduate students, an important benchmark in becoming a top-twenty-five research institution.

The program is led by Rupy Sawhney, Lee Martin, and Gregory Sedrick in the College of Engineering on Fridays at the Law Enforcement Training Center in Oak Ridge. Y-12 employees already have Fridays off, as they work ten hours a day Monday through Thursday.

Daniel Weller doesn’t mind giving up his day off.

“This program gives me an opportunity to get a master’s degree without rearranging my work schedule,” Weller said. “I can still work full time, and I’ll have greater career advancement opportunities with this.”

Weller says he is benefiting from the expertise of UT faculty.

“The professors are giving us a wealth of information, especially practical information for what we do at Y-12. This program will give Y-12 people they can put into management positions who have both technical and managerial aspects. That’s really valuable.”

The program is Y-12 specific—the coursework weaves in Y-12 issues, and students’ capstone projects are built upon a Y-12 challenge. The students’ also generate worthwhile experience through their participation in the East Tennessee Economic Council meetings.

The students’ tuition is completely paid for by the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is just one example of a strengthening relationship between Y-12 and UT, which entered into a formal partnership this past fall.

Carlos Houston is grateful for the opportunity. He didn’t know where he could get a master’s degree while working full-time.

“I was looking at Vanderbilt’s program but this one makes perfect sense. I couldn’t ask for more,” Houston said. “The professors are considerate of the fact that we’re all working forty hours per week, and they’ve geared the curriculum toward the general work we do at Y-12.”

A new cohort of students begins classes this spring.