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UTA, L-3 Partnership Leads to Master's Degrees

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UTA’s longstanding relationship with aerospace, electronic and communication systems provider L-3 yielded a cohort of the company’s employees who earned master of software engineering degrees in classes taught at their workplace.

The customized degree program strengthened L-3’s workforce and allowed the College of Engineering to quickly and collaboratively meet an industry partner’s needs.

Ron Cross, former director of engineering at L-3 and a member of the College’s Advisory Board, approached the Computer Science Department and asked about the possibility of offering a master of software engineering program at L-3’s Arlington offices. Bill Carroll, a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department and former dean of the College who helped create the program, met with Cross and others from L-3 and UTA over several weeks to determine what material would be taught and how to deliver it. Once the details were agreed upon, students were approved, and the program began.

Bill Carroll“The benefit for L-3 is that their engineers improved their knowledge and skills, which will make their company more competitive. They also got to know each other, so there’s improved communication within and between teams. It’s a benefit for the students because they strengthened their credentials to be promoted within the company. It’s a benefit to UTA because it strengthens our relationship with L-3 and proves that we can be responsive to the needs of local industry,” Carroll said.

Twenty students earned their degrees in December, and a systems engineering master’s cohort could be offered next.

Jonathan Eason, a principal software engineer at L-3 who earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at UTA in 2000, was one of the students who joined the cohort. He worked for Raytheon for four years after graduation and has been at L-3 for 11 years since.

“I had considered pursuing my master’s degree several times, but working 40+ hours per week and Jonathan Easonmanaging home life can be difficult. When L-3 said they were working with UTA on a program where the professors were going to come to us, and that L-3 was also going to pay for everything, my wife and I decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Eason said.

“The biggest factor that led me to the L-3/UTA program was how flexible it was. The professors really worked with us, especially when we had to leave town for work. They also realized we had a full-time job during the day and were sensitive to that.”

Mike O’Dell, a senior lecturer in the Computer Science and Engineering Department and a faculty member, taught the program. He said that since L-3 and UTA worked closely on developing the curriculum, the company was able to provide a degree that strengthens its workforce and makes it more competitive. UTA, was able to get input into industry needs and prove that it can be a good, agile partner for potential future agreements.

Mike O'Dell“By using our existing program with only minor adjustments, we were able to get this program started very quickly. The regular program has a two-semester project built into it, but we allowed L-3 to define that project so that it would be directly relevant to its employees and the work they were doing. All of the students took an introduction to industrial engineering course at L-3’s request as well,” O’Dell said.

“These were highly motivated students. They were there to gain the knowledge they needed to be better at their jobs and move up in the company. I really believe that by defining the project and adding the systems engineering aspect through the intro to industrial engineering course, L-3 ensured that these students will be valuable contributors within the company well into the future.”

Eason is glad that he finally took the leap and earned his master’s degree. He is even considering taking more courses in the future.

“The program’s content was excellent, and the professors were definitely a strength. It was a really great opportunity and I’m glad I took advantage of it. There are even a few of us who are considering pursuing our Ph.D.s now,” he said.