A 10-month investment in Lehigh’s Structural Engineering professional master’s program gave Lisa Vienckowski ’12 M.Eng. the skills and confidence to think big   

She knew almost immediately that the extra 10 months had been worth it. Lisa Vienckowski had just started her first job after graduating from Lehigh University’s professional master’s program in Structural Engineering.

“One of my managers said something like, ‘I can always tell who has their master’s and who doesn’t,’” says Vienckowski. “And that’s because when someone would give me a task and ask, ‘Do you know how to do this?’ I could say, ‘No, but I have a really good idea of where to look.’ The confidence I got from the M.Eng. program helped me have a really positive experience with my management team, because they didn’t have to spend hours explaining every little detail to me.”

As a project engineer and team leader at Titan Engineers PC, based in New Jersey, Vienckowski is now one of those managers recruiting and training young professionals. She employs much of what she learned as a student in the M.Eng. program in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, promoting an environment where new recruits feel empowered to learn independently, and gain the confidence that can give their career an immediate boost.

It wasn’t just the ability to confidently research solutions that gave Vienckowski a leg up. Like all professional master’s students, she participated in a program-long design project (her class designed a church) that exposed her to the real-world demands of being a structural engineer, specifically, the value of teamwork. 

“I think a lot of engineers are people who like things done in a particular way,” she says. “But the program shows you how there’s more than one way to do something. It’s actually very inspiring to see how people come at a problem so differently, and at this point in my career, that’s what keeps me on my toes and from getting stuck in specific ways of doing things.” 

Vienckowski entered the program after earning her undergraduate degree in civil and environmental engineering from Bucknell University. At that point, she felt like she had a theoretical understanding of how she would design concrete or steel, but not enough confidence to quite pull it off. And while she acknowledges that extending the time and financial commitment for another 10 months of study can be a tough decision for many students, it ultimately came down to thinking critically about the job she wanted.

“There are definitely engineering jobs that don’t require that higher level of education,” she says. “But if you want to get into industry, and you want to design buildings, I think it’s worthwhile. When I was researching this program, I knew I would get experience working on a real project with a team. I would learn how to use codes, how to use the software, how to put a calculation package together and talk to clients. The program is designed by professionals, so I knew it would be relevant. And when it was over, I’d have access to this network of alumni, which was how I landed my first job. The year at Lehigh just really gives you a head start.”

—Christine Fennessy is staff writer for the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science