Small Classes, Great Teachers Highlight Top Engineering Degrees
The best graduate engineering degrees have one thing in common: outstanding faculty.
When Nirmal Mallavarapu decided to get his engineering master’s degree in the United States, he focused on Boston-area engineering programs. A graduate of SRM University in Chennai, India, Mallavarapu was attracted to Greater Boston because of the region’s thriving robotics sector.
After comparing the benefits of several area engineering colleges, he chose Merrimack College’s master’s degree in mechanical engineering. The reason?
“Merrimack’s faculty and the small class sizes were the deciding factors,” Mallavarapu says. “I liked the professors’ profiles. Everyone was educated in highly decorated engineering universities, and they all have an amazing work history and exciting research.”
Just as important, he says, “you are able to spend time with the professors at Merrimack, because the largest class is 25 to 30 students. Some of the other engineering degrees I considered have lectures with 200 or 250 students, so it’s difficult to get an appointment with the professor. That was never a problem at Merrimack.”
“I had one class that was five students,” adds Joseph Privitera, who earned his civil engineering master’s degree, with a concentration in engineering management, from Merrimack in 2019. “At that point the class becomes an open-ended discussion, and you can build close bonds with the faculty.”
Both Mallavarapu and Privitera understood that nothing affects the quality of graduate engineering degrees as much as the faculty. Great instructors have a talent for bringing out the best in their students. They go beyond the subject matter involved in a graduate engineering degree, offering insights that take your education and career to the next level. Outstanding engineering faculty share:
- Innovative research
- Professional experience and connections
- Personal interest in your goals
- Multicultural awareness and fluency
- A passion for learning and teaching
Faculty Relationships Can Build Your Engineering Career
“Professor [John] Gallagher, Professor [Roselita] Fragoudakis, and Professor [Rickey] Caldwell were all really big influences on me,” says Erick Tung, who completed his master’s in mechanical engineering at Merrimack in 2018.
“Professor Caldwell is very dedicated to his students,” says Tung, now a systems engineer at Raytheon. “He’s always willing to put in the time and stick with you until you achieve whatever you’re trying to do. One semester he stayed past midnight on the last day of class, helping everyone solve last-minute problems so they could complete their final projects.”
Nirmal Mallavarapu also enjoyed working with professors Caldwell and Gallagher because of their advanced expertise in robotics, the focus of his graduate engineering degree. Caldwell, a robotics guru who has worked or consulted for major industry players such as MITRE, General Motors, and the U.S. Department of Defense, supervised Mallavarapu’s thesis project.
Gallagher, meanwhile, was one of the key reasons Mallavarapu decided to get his graduate engineering degree at Merrimack.
“I liked his research in smart materials,” says Mallavarapu. “That area is of great interest to me, and he’s doing very exciting work in that field.” Mallavarapu wound up incorporating smart materials into his engineering degree master’s project—which, in turn, helped him achieve his ultimate goal, a job in the robotics industry (as an engineering manager at Vecna Robotics).
Joseph Privitera singles out two professors who greatly enhanced his graduate engineering degree experience.
“Jim Kaklamanos is clear and straightforward, and he really teaches you to be self-disciplined,” Privitera says. “Marc Veleztos is very similar in his teaching style, and he really focused me on how to act like a professional.”
For Privitera, Merrimack’s small class sizes and accessible faculty made a huge impact on his graduate engineering degree experience.
“It’s a close-knit family,” he says. “I became good friends with all my professors, and those relationships really prepared me for the real world. They were there for me, and I always felt they were doing everything they could to help students succeed in whatever path they wanted to take.”
Merrimack Engineering Faculty: In Their Own Words
Roselita Fragoudakis: “Merrimack’s sense of community is very strong. Our graduate engineering degrees have a strong sense of collaboration, without a sense of competitiveness. I feel supported by my faculty colleagues, and we share that with students. In the end it helps students learn teamwork, which is extremely important when you’re out there professionally.”
Rickey Caldwell: “We’re great developers of talent in Merrimack’s graduate engineering programs. We will help you learn to motivate yourself, act as your own mentor, your own teacher. I encourage my students to have a goal, create a timeline for achieving it, set milestones, and continuously review and renew their goals. These are the things you need to do if you want to use your graduate engineering degree as the foundation for a vibrant career.”
Anthony DiCarlo: “Students get one-on-one interaction in our graduate engineering degrees. They have opportunities to build their networking while learning alongside seasoned professionals and faculty, and access to invaluable technical tools to help them become a successful leader.”
Sadegh Asgari: “I believe teaching is about inspiration. In addition to being the source of information for my students, I try to inspire my students. Many of them tell me that their favorite aspect of our graduate engineering degrees is the sense of community. Everyone is connected and supported. You feel noticed.”
“I became good friends with all my professors, and those relationships really prepared me for the real world. I always felt they were doing everything they could to help students succeed.”
― Joseph Privitera, MS Civil Engineering ’19