MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The mission of System Design and Management Program is to educate future technical leaders in architecting, engineering, and designing complex products and systems, preparing them for careers as the technically grounded senior managers of their enterprises. SDM intends to set the standards for delivering career-compatible professional education using advanced information and communication technologies. SDM was one of MIT’s early entries into the field of distance education and remains the only degree-granting program at MIT that can be earned primarily at a distance.

The SDM Program is a joint offering of the School of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, leading to a Master of Science degree in Engineering and Management. Targeted for professional engineers with three or more years of experience, the program centers on a 13-course curriculum in systems, engineering, and management, including a project-based thesis. It offers three curricular options: a 13-month in-residence format; a 24-month distance education format for company-sponsored students, requiring one academic semester in-residence at MIT; and a 24-month, on-campus program for self-supporting students who can obtain a research assistantship in one of MIT’s labs or centers. The program was conceived as an alternative to the MBA for professional engineers, allowing working professionals to pursue a degree without interrupting their careers and relocating themselves and their families.

Co-directors for the program include Paul Lagace (Engineering), Steve Graves (Management), and Bill Hanson (Industry) and John Williams (Engineering) until his sabbatical in January 2000. In June, Thomas Kochan from the Sloan School also continued in the combined enterprise as a co-director filling in for Steve Graves' during his sabbatical.

In June 2000, SDM graduated its second full class. Forty-five of the fifty-eight graduates attended the commencement ceremony to receive their degrees - a tribute to the cohesiveness of this distance education group. The graduating class includes seventeen employees from Ford, twelve from UTC and three from Xerox, and two from Kodak, as well as employees from Fuji Xerox, ITT, PictureTel, Intel, USAF, ComputerVision, Silicon Graphics, Sun MicroSystems, Comicrom SA, and Honeywell.

In January 2000, SDM admitted its fourth class, enrolling fifty students. Forty-three students admitted in 1999 continued in the program, with three 13-month students from the January 1999 class graduating in Spring 2000. In all, twelve companies sponsored students in the incoming class, including four sustaining enterprise companies: United Technologies Corporation sponsored four students, Ford Motor Company sponsored thirteen, Xerox Corporation sponsored six, and Eastman Kodak sponsored two students. Other sponsoring companies include: NASA which sponsored seven students for the first time, Polaroid, Delphi Packard, U.S. Navy, IBM, Intraware, Integrity Solutions and Mide Technology.

Table 1.





















Research Assistant





Distance Education





Company Sponsored





Specific program accomplishments included:

Curriculum Development

Collaboration and Outreach

Distance Education Delivery


As reported last year, after much discussion and consultation with the Deans of Engineering and the Sloan School of Management, on July 1, 1999, Leaders for Manufacturing and System Design and Management Program officially consolidated their administrative staff. Much energy has been devoted during the last year not only to achieve the economy of scale planned for by the consolidation, but also to understand how these two related programs can work more effectively for the LFM-SDM partnership as a whole.

One of the first actions taken by the new LFM-SDM partnership was to advertise for the position of Director of Fellows (SDM). Created to mirror the position held by Don Rosenfield in LFM, the Director of Fellows (SDM) reports to the LFM/SDM co-directors, has primary responsibility for the overall SDM program and involves both administrative and teaching responsibilities within the SDM program. Dennis Mahoney, a retired captain in the Navy (engineering duty) began serving in this position on August 1, 1999.

As a newer program within the Institute, SDM has already benefited considerably by its association with LFM. Processes already established by LFM have been adapted to SDM, including entrance and exit interviews and greater emphasis in the admissions process in collecting data for determining profiles of successful SDM students. A new effort was begun to get placement and salary data of graduates in an effort to determine what the experience of SDM graduates were after the program in partner companies and in companies that hire non-sponsored SDM students. The Operating Committee and Governing Board for LFM assumed oversight of the SDM program, and began the process in FY2000 of bringing advocates for both programs onto these boards. Because there was little history of industry partnership for SDM, much work still needs to be done in this regard. Of the four SDM enterprise partners (Ford Motor Company, United Technologies Corporation, Eastman Kodak Company, and Xerox Corporation), only Xerox was not a partner with LFM, but has since been invited to join as a full partner of LFM-SDM.

Much time over the last year has been spent determining the future direction of this new entity within the Institute. Beginning with a two-day off-site with co-directors in June 1999, this effort led this year to the production of a White Paper entitled, "A Strategic Vision: Building on and Strengthening the LFM-SDM Programs." LFM-SDM have chosen the phrase "Leaders for the Total Enterprise" (LFTE) as the central concept around which to build the next generation LFM and SDM programs.

LFTE maintains and builds on the unique bases of LFM and SDM and thereby allows the interdisciplinary issues facing organizations to be effectively addressed in a broader context while still maintaining our originals focuses on issues in the more local domains. The new larger partnership of LFTE allows LFM-SDM to continue to address the two key discipline areas of engineering and manufacturing (product design, development and delivery) while broadening our domain and thereby learning about and developing the practices and principles that occur at the interface and integration of these disciplines.

There are four thrusts to developing LFTE:

After discussion with all the partners and stakeholders, it was determined that while there was interest in how a combined LFM-SDM might develop in the future, stakeholders were focussed on how LFM-SDM might strengthen the two individual programs. Accordingly, LFM-SDM held a faculty retreat in June, attended by faculty, students, alums, partner companies and staff. This year’s topic "Strengthening and Building on the LFM and SDM Programs" was driven by the need to continually adjust the programs to meet the changing needs of all our partners--students, alumni, faculty, and industry.

After a full day of brainstorming, the group determined five initiatives that it wanted the partnership to address within the next six months. These initiatives included:

Global teams consisting of representatives from all stakeholder constituencies have been formed and are working on addressing these issues over the long term.

Current LFM-SDM Co-directors are: Stephen C. Graves, William C. Hanson, and Paul Lagace.

More information about SDM can be found on the World Wide Web at

William C. Hanson

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000