Category: New Online Programs

New online courses, certificates, and programs offered by Global Campus.

Bridging Business and STEM

The online Tech MBA program helps people bridge business and STEM.
Engineering and tech companies seek graduates with STEM and business administration expertise.

Discover the Online Tech MBA® and MEM Programs.

The College of Business and Michigan Tech Global Campus are teaming up to hold another virtual interest session on two of MTU’s most popular online programs: The Tech MBA® and the Master of Engineering Management (MEM).

They will be holding a 45-minute virtual interest session on Wednesday, May 15, at 11:30 AM (ET).

Mari Buche, associate Dean of the College of Business and program director; and David Lawrence, vice president for Global Campus and continuing education will lead the presentation. They will highlight and compare these programs, explaining which one is best for you. The team will also provide examples of curriculum pathways and discuss career opportunities.

The Michigan Tech’s Global Campus small but mighty team of admissions representatives (Amanda Irwin and Jacque Smith) will also be present to discuss the application process and accelerated options.

Get an Accredited, Respected Degree.

The Tech MBA® and MEM are not new, though. For several years, the in-person versions of these programs have long been respected at MTU. The Tech MBA in its current form (30 credits) began in 2017 whereas the online format was rolled out in 2022. Next came the in-person and online versions of the MEM (2020, 2023).

Both programs are also accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), an honor bestowed on only 5% of the nations’s business schools.

And like their in-person equivalents, the online MBA and MEM programs meet a strict set of standards, ensuring quality in curriculum, rigor, and research.

The Online Tech MBA® is a highly structured program consisting of eight required courses and two electives. In contrast, the MEM degree is more flexible. Students get to build their own programs, combining 4-6 business courses with 4-6 engineering courses.

Both programs provide learning experiences that fuse technological expertise and business administration. Students get to leverage their previous engineering experience, regardless of their field, and/or their former engineering management expertise. They also gain the cross-disciplinary advantage of studying at a school known for not only for its technology and business programs, but also for its Faculty who have leadership and industry experience in tech-centric fields.

Graduates of both programs will leave equipped with critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, project management, and leadership skills. As a result, they are more than prepared to tackle marketing, management, technical sales, leadership, strategy, and entrepreneurship positions. 

Prepare Yourself for Career Opportunities.

Incomes differ, but an investopedia article notes that MBA graduates who specialize in consulting, finances, and technology management earn the most. And according to one Fortune article, the median salaries for those with MBA degrees are substantially higher than those without them. One report ascribes 1.2 million dollars in extra income over a 20-year period.

Also, many organizations seek out and respect MBA holders. In fact, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) found that 89% of employers planned to hire MBA graduates in 2021.

And MBA holders apply their skills and expertise in several fields. For instance, in Finance and Accounting, they might work as accounting managers, finance managers, financial analysts, budget analysts, and investment bankers. Whereas in heathcare, they might take on the roles of healthcare administrators and medical health service managers. Still others move to manufacturing where they act as managers for operations, supply chain, quality control, and more.

Typically, MBA programs are one of the most expensive master’s programs, with an average tuition cost of about 56k. This number does not include fees, books, and so on. Michigan Tech’s accredited program, which costs less, is definitely a value.

Learn More!

Prefer to do your own research? We’ve compiled other reasons for earning an advanced degree and pursuing an MBA.

Want to dive deeper? Ask more questions? Please join us at our virtual interest session on the Tech MBA®and MEM programs on Wednesday, May 15, 11:30 AM at ET. Bring your curiosity and your questions.

GIScience for Natural Resources: New Online Grad Cert. From CFRES

Dr. Parth Bhattin the field doing GIScience work.

Dr. Parth Bhatt at work.

Coming in Fall 2024, the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science (CFRES) will be offering a new online graduate certificate: Foundations in Geographic Information Science (GIScience) for Natural Resources. Taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, Associate Teaching Professor / Researcher at CFRES, this certificate consists of three foundational courses. They are GIS for Natural Resource Management (4 credits), Map Design With GIS (3 credits), and GPS Field Techniques (2 credits).

This certificate is the first of three that will form CFRES’s new online master’s degree in GIScience (currently under development). The others will be Advanced Geographic Information Science for Natural Resources and Remote Sensing for Natural Resources. These two will comprise rigorous courses in Python, Applied Spatial Statistics, GIS Project Management, Advanced Terrestrial Remote Sensing, Photogrammetry, and more. In other words, this online MS degree will equip graduates with a rich, varied skill set in GIScience. They will also acquire a holistic, deep understanding of the spatial dimensions of the world.

For a decade, CFRES has offered a respected, in-person MGIS. Like its predecessor, this interdisciplinary online master’s degree will emphasize practical skills in spatial visualization and analysis. Students will use real-world datasets and state-of-the-art GIS software and techniques to take on challenges in forestry, natural resources, and other disciplines.

The reputation of CFRES, the program’s emphasis on natural resources, and its robust curriculum promise to make this program a highly esteemed online GIS master’s degree. Global Campus is thrilled to be involved with it!

Applying GIScience in Forestry and Natural Resources

If you’re not familiar with Geographic Information Science, it is an exciting, growing, multidisciplinary field. It focuses on the study of geographic information, spatial data, as well as their applications. Combining principles from geography, computer science, mathematics, and other disciplines, GIScience has the ambitious goal of understanding, analyzing, and modelling the spatial aspects of the world.

GIS, or Geographical Information Systems, focuses on the what: the hardware and software that capture geographic information. In contrast, GIScience, focuses on the why: finding practical ways to improve GIS data, software, and professional practice.

This certificate and upcoming MGIS will provide fundamental GIScience expertise to foresters and natural resource experts. In Natural Resource Management, for example, professionals use GIScience for several purposes:

  • resource inventory and mapping
  • environmental impact assessment
  • habitat modeling and conservation planning
  • natural disaster management
  • sustainable land use planning
A forest, which is often managed by natural resource experts with GIScience experience.
GIScience is often used in forest management.

Take resource inventory and mapping. Natural resource managers turn to GIScience to create detailed inventories and maps of natural resources. This data then allows them to analyze the distribution and abundance of resources within an area: forest stands, wetlands, mineral deposits, endangered species habitats, and other important ecological features.

Alternatively, in habitat modeling and conservation planning, experts use GIScience tools to analyze the suitability of habitats for different species. This suitability is based on environmental variables such as temperature, precipitation, elevation, and vegetation cover. GIScience, in short, is crucial to conservation planning. It can help identify critical habitats, corridors for wildlife movement, and areas for habitat restoration or protection.

Solving Multiple Problems With GIScience

First and foremost, GIScience offers practical skills and tools for professionals in several natural resource fields. These include GIS Analysts/Technicians, foresters, civil and environmental engineers, spatial/transportation planners, wildlife ecologists, forest analysts, surveyors, geospatial specialists, water resources analysts, environmental scientists, geologists, community forest specialists, and urban forestry technicians.

Several, in fact, turn to this toolkit regularly. One previous alum from the in-person MGIS now works as a Senior GIS Analyst. In this role for Pine Gate Renewables, he uses GIS and Remote Sensing daily. These tools help him to identify risks for setting up solar farms, creating hydrology models, and locating wetlands.

Another alum with broad responsibilities also confirmed the daily use of GIScience. He oversees the creation of maps, spatial data analysis, surveying projects, data checks on road segments, and storm water analysis “to create pervious and impervious classification.” This person also admits to “diligently maintaining maps detailing water infrastructure” and managing and reviewing “various city assets, ensuring their accuracy and reliability through spatial data analysis.”

In other words, these alumni regularly manage several responsibilities with GIScience and Remote Sensing.

Contending With Climate Change

Regardless of their discipline, GIScience can also equip professionals with the tools and the strategies to predict and combat the effects of climate change.

This skillset is especially relevant now: 2023 was the warmest year on record. (The temperature was 1.18°C [2.12°F] above the 20th-century average of 13.9°C [57.0°F]. In fact, the last ten warmest years in the 174-year record have all occurred between 2014 and 2023. And with a heating planet come more impactful environmental events: floods, extreme weather, drought, and forest fires.

According to NOAA, 2023 also set another record–for natural disasters. During this year, there were 28 devastating weather and climate disasters. The price tag for these events was almost 93 billon dollars.

For contending with climate change’s effects, then, GIScience can aid with hazard mapping, risk assessment, and emergency response planning. For instance, by analyzing spatial data related to factors such as terrain, vegetation, hydrology, and population density, professionals can identify areas prone to natural hazards. Whether these are floods, wildfires, and landslides, experts can develop strategies to mitigate risks and respond effectively during emergencies.

The Pakistan Flood Events

Dr. Parth Bhatt, himself, used GI Science to document the effects of Pakistan’s historic floods, which lasted from June 15 to October 2022.

A map of the Pakistan floods made with GIScience.
Map of the area affected by the floods in Pakistan.
A flooded street in a Pakistani province.
Citizens traverse a flooded street in Pakistan.

In these devastating flood events, waters inundated more than one million homes. The flood hit all four of the country’s provinces, resulting in at least two million houses destroyed.

In total, 33 million people were directly affected with 20.6 million requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. (Unfortunately, nine months later, the monsoons brought more flooding, further exacerbating the crisis.)

Looking Ahead to the Future of GIScience

GIScience, in short, can help professionals in many fields manage the world’s resources, plan infrastructure, mitigate and plan for natural hazards, and combat (or prepare for) the effects of climate change, and more.

However, its tools are also becoming increasingly integral in fields beyond traditional domains like urban planning and environmental science.

As GIScience “continues to evolve and adapt to new demands, its impact on industries and disciplines worldwide is set to expand. As such, it will drive “transformative change and unlocking new possibilities for spatial analysis and decision-making” (GIS Analyst II). For instance, some of the newer industries hiring GIS experts are construction, engineering, insurance, real estate, and oil and gas.

One Senior GIS Specialist (Pine Gate Renewables) further confirmed that in the solar industry, there are more people being hired with a GIScience background than there were before. More professionals use “GIS and remote sensing to help identify issues, notice change over time, help drive decisions, and keep projects moving forward.”

Another expert stated that proficiencies in ArcGIS, QGIS, Python, R, and Javscript are becoming increasingly essential in GIS specialist roles.

From agriculture to healthcare, smart cities to disaster management, GIS and Remote Sensing are revolutionizing how we analyze spatial data, make informed decisions, and address complex challenges. Integration with emerging technologies like AI, along with a focus on environmental monitoring, public health, and conservation, underscores their pivotal role in shaping a more sustainable and interconnected world.

GIS Analyst II, Metro Consulting Associates

Learning From a Passionate Teacher

And it’s not just what you will learn in these programs but who you will learn it from. That is, Foundations in GI Science for Natural Resources (and the online MGIS) are both helmed and taught by Dr. Parth Bhatt, whose passion for the subject was covered in a previous blog.

Bhatt’s portfolio of GIScience skills is also diverse: he has expertise in Geographical Information Systems, remote sensing, digital image processing (Multispectral, LiDAR, UAV, Hyperspectral), land use/cover mapping, invasive species mapping, forest health and natural resource management, spatial data analysis, and Web GIS/ArcGIS Online.

Most recently, he has received a grant to put these skills to work: acting as a PI on research projects for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan.

Dr. Parth Bhatt in the classroom, teaching GI Science.
Dr. Parth Bhatt in the classroom

Bhatt has also been instructing the very popular, noncredit, professional development course, Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing. This course, which runs several times a year, has had rave reviews.

Taking the Next Steps

If you’d like to learn more about GIScience or you require more information about the Online GIS Certificate from CFRES, please contact Program Director Parth Bhatt (ppbhatt@mtu.edu).

Alternatively, reach out to Program Assistant Marjorie Banovetz (marjorie@mtu.edu).

There is still plenty of time to get started for Fall 2024 and develop your versatile GIS toolkit! And accelerated options are also available.

Global Campus Grows

Whether it’s been covering new education fellowship partnerships, reporting on Michigan Tech’s collaboration with the MEDC, writing about innovative mass timber research initiatives, researching the gifts of adult learners, welcoming new team members, or rushing to keep up with Global Campus Vice President David Lawrence, this blog writer has had a busy year. And while all these initiatives, and more, have been underway, I’ve also had to keep track of Michigan Tech’s new online courses and programs.

Recent Online Programs at Global Campus

For example, in the last year, the College of Business added the online TechMBA and the Master of Engineering Management. Both are accredited, 10-course programs that, in various ways, leverage your STEM expertise. Whereas the TechMBA provides foundational business skills, the MEM allows students to customize degrees that merge engineering and business. To promote these programs, Dr. Mari Buche, David Lawrence, and his Global Campus team graciously led several online virtual interest sessions, which were all well attended.

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.

President John F. Kennedy

Furthermore, the College of Engineering met the learning and leadership challenge with its Master of Engineering, a professional terminal degree. This degree allows students to focus on either a HEV (hybrid electric vehicle) track or an engineering track. For the engineering track, learners can combine courses from several disciplines. In fact, the master of engineering is ideal for those collaborating with their employer to develop a program to meet specific on-the-job needs.

More recently, the Department of Applied Computing has also added two new programs to its roster: Public Health Informatics and Foundations in Health Informatics. Both certificates can be stacked to form a master’s degree. Like other HI programs, these prepare students for diverse roles in the data-driven healthcare industry. Guy Hembroff, the Health Informatics director, also ensured that MTU’s CHI students have memberships in HIMSS. HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society) is a global society. It enables health information professionals to access resources, enroll in seminars, develop networks, search for jobs, and much more. In other words, it gives MTU’s Health Informatics students an edge.

Global Campus Bridge Courses

Bridge courses are short, intensive, preparatory online courses that help learners acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to enter advanced study. This study might mean an undergraduate program, graduate degree, or graduate certificate. Often, bridge courses are for students who are provisionally accepted into a program.

Linear Algebra: A Bridge Course Offered Through Global Campus
Linear Algebra: A Bridge Course Offered Through Global Campus

For instance, in September of 2022, Teresa Woods, Associate Teaching Professor in Mathematical Sciences and Linear Algebra aficionado, taught our first bridge course: Linear Algebra. Her ten-week, asynchronous online course was aimed at prospective students who needed the LA requirement to enroll in MTU’s Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics program.

Woods’ course covered fundamental linear algebra concepts as used in Applied Statistics. Some of the topics included systems of equations, vectors, matrices, orthogonality, subspaces, and the eigenvalue problem.

To learn more about this course, email Teresa Woods (tmthomps@mtu.edu).

Linear Algebra is once again running for the Fall 2023 semester. And there are still a few seats left. Right now, the proposed start date is Sept. 18, 2023.

Newer Professional Development Opportunities

Fundamental Courses and Bootcamps

Global Campus also had the privilege of working with subject matter experts to promote in-demand professional development courses. Also known as continuing education and career training, these courses allow those in the workforce to hone skills, acquire specialized training, develop leadership abilities, and stay up-to-date on current trends.

Currently, Michigan Tech offers both non-credit and for-credit pd courses.

For example, during the summer of 2023, APS Labs rolled out its short, but rigorous course on Diesel Engine Fundamentals. Despite the turn to EV, this course recognized that diesel engines weren’t going anywhere soon. That is, diesel engines are still in light-duty vehicles, medium and heavy-duty trucks; in commercial vehicles (trains, trucks, buses, barges, and boats); in army vehicles; and in generators.

This course was conveniently available in both online and in-person versions. Its goal was educating those pursuing careers in the automotive industry, commercial vehicles, power generation, or related fields.

A Diesel Engine, which was studied in the APS Labs short course for Global Campus
A Diesel Engine

Also, Kevin Johnson, Assistant Teaching Professor, Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering, lent his significant expertise to summer students. He taught an an intense 20-hour in-person hydraulics bootcamp. In his course, students learned about several topics crucial to hydraulics, such as valves, pumps, motors, circuits, and closed-loop hydrostatic systems.

Upcoming Professional Development Courses

Python for Modern GIS

A person working on GIS with Python, one of the courses taught though Global Campus
GIS Workshop

Furthermore, recognizing the need for more Python professionals in the GIS world, Parth Bhatt (Assistant Teaching Professor / Researcher from the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences) is offering a 7-week, asynchronous, online course for Fall 2023.

His Python for Modern GIS and Remote Sensing course will help students learn beginning and immediate-level applications of Python for understanding and writing simple scripts, automating workflows, and solving day-to-day, real-world geoprocessing tasks in the ArcGIS ecosystem and open-source platform.

Dr. Bhatt, a dynamic teaching professor who lives and breathes GIS, is also on deck to develop online for-credit certificates for his department. Stay tuned for more developments.

And, yes, you still have time to register for Bhatt’s course.

Civil Asset Management

As well, the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering has recently added a 3-credit, synchronous online course in Civil Asset Management. This course is taught by Mark Declercq, who brings three decades of valuable, practical civil asset expertise to the classroom. In fact, as Grand Rapids Engineer, Declercq was one of the first experts with boots on the ground during that city’s massive flood event.

Civil Asset Management (CEE 5390) will help students develop long-term plans, as well as the strategic, critical thinking they need to recognize and maintain the value of our all-important civil assets. Declercq also maintains that to develop resilient and affordable solutions and to tackle upcoming sustainability challenges, engineers definitely need Civil Asset Management skills.

Keep Up With Global Campus as We Learn and Grow

In the future, Global Campus plans to offer additional non-credit and for-credit courses and programs. Our goals are advancing the personal development, career goals, and leadership opportunities that come with education. We also recognize the importance of challenging all learners to grow, to think creatively and critically, and to prepare for tomorrow.

We’ll keep you posted as we assist in developing and supporting new programs. For updates, read this blog or follow us on social media.

And remember, regardless of where you are in your educational journey, whether you want to take a course for fun or for your future, it is never too late to start learning.

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

Henry Ford

Civil Asset Management Course Comes to Michigan Tech

Aerial view of the Grand Rapids river as it crested during the flood event.

Five years before the 2018 Houghton Father’s Day Flood presented civil engineers with infrastructure challenges, there was the Grand Rapids Flood Event. This flood, which lasted from April 12 to April 25 2013, affected multiple areas in the city. At that time, the Midwest had been receiving a deluge of rain, with Grand Rapids getting 3.5 inches (89mm) of the wet stuff between April 8 and 15. And upriver, the Comstock Park community received 5.04 inches (128mm). With the latter rainfall, the Comstock Park floodwaters moved from minor to moderate, resulting in the river rising to 13.3 feet (4.1m) by April 13.

Rain continued to fall throughout the city, but on April 19, the tipping point was the 9.1 inches that fell in Grand Rapids, breaking the 109-year record from the flood of 1904-1905. Then, things rapidly grew from bad to worse. On April 21, the Grand River crested at 17.8 feet (5.8 feet above flood level) in Comstock whereas it rose to 21.85 feet (3.85 feet above flood level) in Grand Rapids.

1700 residents were evacuated (1000 from the Plaza Towers alone). Roads were closed. Railroads were impassable. The water in the city core was so high, in fact, that people reported fish swimming by their office floor windows. 429 million gallons of wastewater ended up seeping into the Grand River.

After the flood, the investigations began, not only to determine what went wrong, but also to prepare for future disastrous events.

Experts analyzed the events and identified the city’s risk of flood-prone areas using Geographical Information System modeling. They collected the physical data about the flood protection system assets for contingency planning and resiliency analysis against intense storm events.

Flood waters as seen through an office building window.
Floodwaters as seen through a window in the downtown core of Grand Rapids.

Introducing Mark Declercq

Civil Asset Management expert Declercq.
Civil Asset Management expert, Mark Declercq

One of the leading engineers on the front lines was Grand Rapids City Engineer and Civil Asset Management expert, Mark Declercq, PE and MTU Alum (Bachelor’s and Master’s of Structural Engineering, ’88, ’90).

As City Engineer for Grand Rapids, Declercq was responsible for the enterprise asset management program, capital project delivery, and capital maintenance program for the care of public assets.

These assets included the public transportation systems; water distribution and sanitary collection systems; storm water conveyance systems, pumping stations, retention structures and clean water plants; energy audits on public buildings; and solar array systems design and installation. In other words, he played a major role in Grand Rapids infrastructure.

After the flood, Declercq stepped in to co-lead the Grand River Corridor Strategic and Conceptual Planning for the potential river restoration project and riverbank development. The project, indeed, was a success: the Grand River watershed, low-head dam restoration, and flood protection system were all re-certified by FEMA. This recertification was a crucial part of the update and digitalization of nationwide flood insurance maps.

And this restoration project smartly kept the heart of the city in mind, too. For instance, the impressive amphitheater project in downtown Grand Rapids is a result of that strategic plan. In the 2013 Grand Rapids Flood Event, then, Asset Management was crucial for building resiliency, sustainability, and business continuity. (Fun fact, former MTU professor Dr. Henry Sanford acted watershed hydrology expert for the City of Grand Rapids.)

Sharing His Civil Asset Management Expertise With MTU

Declercq will bring his experience as a City Engineer, his expertise in Asset Management Planning, and his over 33 years in the private and public sectors to Michigan Technological University. In Fall 2023, he is teaching a 3-credit, online Civil Asset Management professional development course for the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering.

Currently, he serves as president of Applied Asset Management Consultants, an entrepreneurial start-up that was launched in 2018.

And his skills and credentials don’t stop there.

Declercq not only holds certifications in Professional Asset Management, LEAN Management, and Emergency Management, but also has memberships in the Institute of Asset Management, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Michigan Society of Professional Engineers. Indeed, his resume is loaded with his accomplishments.

The Grand Rapids flood was one of Michigan’s worst natural disasters. It altered how we worked and lived in the downtown area. It served as a catalyst for a shift in the way we conceived land use and the deployment of resources in order to save our city and construct it in the future.

David Lawrence, Vice President for Global Campus and Continuing Education, who was working in the downtown core during the flood event.
A railroad bridge, an example of a civil asset, inundated with water during the Grand Rapids Flood event.
A railroad bridge, an example of a civil asset, inundated with water during the Grand Rapids Flood event.

Building Connections to Tech

Declercq is no stranger to Michigan Tech either. Previously, he collaborated with Dr. Audra Morse to invite CEGE students and faculty to participate in the IAM Great Lakes Branch quarterly meetings. One goal: exposing students to best practices involved with real-world CEGE challenges. Another goal: introducing students to future employers, such as public municipalities, federal and state regulatory agencies, private sector companies, and engineering consultants.

In addition, at the November 2023 IAM Great Lakes meeting, the CEGE will present the Enbridge Line 5 Risk Assessment under the Straits of Mackinac. This presentation will showcase the work and ingenuity of the CEGE Dept and its students.

So it was only natural that Dr. Morse proposed an Adjunct Professor of Practice opportunity so that Declercq could share his expertise on asset management as it applies to civil infrastructure.

Managing Civil Assets

According to Declercq, all infrastructure has value to its organization, customers, and stakeholders. Thus, in civil engineering, Asset Management is the science and practice (coordinated activity) of managing infrastructure systems and civil assets to realize their value and to achieve the highest levels of services for communities. Asset Management, which is cross-functional, involves several disciplines, such as business management, finance, and risk.

The goal is optimizing the life cycle of the civil assets that shape our lives. Below is just a short list of civil assets.

  • Transportation systems (roads, bridges, tunnels, and all assets within the public right-of-way)
  • Long-span bridge systems (Mackinac Bridge)
  • Potable Water distribution systems (watermain pipelines, groundwater pumping systems, buried and elevated tanks, and water treatment facilities)
  • Wastewater collection systems (underground piping, clean water treatment facilities)
  • Storm water conveyance systems
  • River watersheds and dam structures
  • Flood protection systems
  • Landfill operations
  • Natural assets like trail network system, national and state parks, museums
  • Electrical/Natural Gas generation, transmission, and distribution systems
  • Public-use facilities
Historic Fayette State Park on the Garden Peninsula, an example of a civil asset.
Fayette Historic State Park on the Garden Peninsula, Michigan: An example of a civil asset

Interviewing Mark Declercq

To let him speak, I asked Declercq a few questions about his course and the future of civil engineering.

Q. When is the course running? How is it delivered? What content does it cover?

A. The 14-week, for-credit course “Civil Asset Management” (CEE 5390) will first be available in Fall, 2023. It is delivered in a synchronous online format. That is, classes will run Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:00-5:20 pm. Each class will consist of brief instructor-led lectures, followed by student engagement activities. There is also a weekly online laboratory session for applying concepts and working with real-life scenarios.

This course is suitable for all civil engineering students who want to broaden their skills. Civil Asset Management spans a diversity of disciplines including business, finance, risk, supply chain managers, construction managers, facility managers, resource managers, and operational and maintenance managers. CAM, in short, is necessary for the long-term design, maintenance, and sustainability of civil engineering infrastructure and facility asset types in the United States.

The course covers several topics fundamental to Civil Asset Management. Topics include asset data and risk assessment; environmental, social, and governance principles; six working capitals; overview of computerized maintenance systems; sustainability strategies; and funding mechanisms. Central to this course is a rich case study on the 2013 Grand Rapids flood event.

Students will acquire many valuable skills, such as evaluating asset value against cost, risk, and performance in managing the long-term care of civil engineering infrastructure. They will also apply the 10-steps to building an Asset Management Plan. Finally, they will use the A3 Lean Management tool for scenario and business case evaluation.

Q. Why is Civil Asset Management important to civil engineers? What organizations use it?

A. Civil Asset Management is an important and necessary technical and business skill set for today’s civil engineers. That is, civil engineers must learn to be strategic about developing recommendations and formulating decisions. They must be able to optimize the value of asset infrastructure.

This skill set has several societal benefits, too, such as enabling the affordability of and accessibility to basic infrastructure, such as water, wastewater, and multi-modal transportation options. It also equips engineers with the skills to develop strategic plans that incorporate resiliency and sustainability against climate change. And in these plans, engineers learn how to account for disruptors to business continuity.

Most importantly, Asset Management values Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles embraced by many international governments, as well as the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. Also, traditional US civil engineering firms need those with Civil Asset Management expertise to develop plans and frameworks for organizations.

Although early in its journey in the United States, Civil Asset Management has been adopted by several Michigan organizations. These include the Michigan Department of Transportation; the Michigan office of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (E.G.L.E.); and the Michigan Chapters of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Water Environmental Association (MWEA). Asset Management has also been incorporated at the federal level. It is employed by the Department of Defense, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Interior for US Parks, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Q. How does Civil Asset Management help civil engineers prepare for some of the challenges in their fields?

A. Critical thinking is a significant challenge in our civil engineering industry. Or to put it another way, strategy, planning, and the art of “big picture” thinking comprise an undervalued skill set in our industry. This skill set, though, is crucial to both Asset Management and Project Management.

Another challenge for civil engineers is understanding the concept of “value” from the viewpoint of the customer or end user. For example, consider watermain breaks caused by freezing winter temperatures and an unreliable, aged distribution system. The risks are high if the geographical impacts are widespread and felt for a prolonged period of time. Hence, the “value” of the water system in this state is considered less than desirable, especially from users facing affordability challenges with their monthly water rates. Electric outages from recent storm damages throughout Michigan are another example.

Asset Management Planning, then, enables both the strategic thinking and long-term planning to develop scenarios based on data, science, and known risks that improve customer/user outcomes, such as affordable water rates and electrical reliability. Implementing Asset Management’s best practices and tools helps civil engineers do better for their communities and beyond.

Q. Where are those with Civil Asset Management expertise employed?

A. Those with Civil Asset Management experience often begin their careers in a variety of roles: young project engineers, data analysts, engineering technicians, product designers, and project managers. This expertise also opens up opportunities for moving up to positions, such as a CEO, COO, Vice President, or Director of assets and capital project delivery programs.

Additionally, those who have knowledge in managing civil assets might take on the roles of City Managers, City Engineers, Finance Officers, Risk Managers, County Administrative Managers, Water/Sewer/Storm Asset Managers, Public Works/Services Directors, Facility Managers, and other top management and C-, VP-level leadership positions. Furthermore, Civil Asset Management expertise signals an understanding of key business outcomes, a valuable attribute that private and public sectors seek in recruiting leadership talent.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A. My life, both on and off the job has provided me with considerable real-life stories and examples that serve as valuable teaching and mentoring for students. For instance, I love the environment and protecting its value.

I have hiked all the Isle Royale trails, made over a dozen visits to the island. And I have thru-hiked the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail in 2018 over a six-month period, thru-hiked the John Muir Trail in the California High Sierra Mountains in 2022, and hiked the Patagonia W-trek in spring 2023. Next, I plan to thru-hike the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2024.

Civil Asset Management expert Declercq at Baxter Peak.
Declercq finishing another challenging hike on a high note:
at Baxter Peak.
Civil Asset Management expert Declercq at the top of Mount Whitney.
A victorious Declercq at the top of Mount Whitney.

These hiking experiences tell me that we must do more to advocate for and protect our environment, perhaps our most valuable civil asset.