According to a 2018 snapshot of graduate education in New Jersey, from the Council of Graduate Schools, more than 45,000 students were enrolled in graduate study, over 17,000 of whom were in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). At NJIT, 25 percent of the university’s student population is pursuing graduate degrees in a variety of academic disciplines. In fact, NJIT offers some 50 master’s programs (including online programs), 19 Ph.D. programs and 32 graduate certificate programs that cover the most progressive specialties in engineering, computing, management, architecture and design.
“The value of graduate study cannot be underestimated. It catalyzes innovation and substantially decreases unemployment rates* while also becoming absolutely essential for emerging STEM fields — big data and cloud computing, for example,” noted Sotirios G. Ziavras, vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the graduate faculty. “Graduate-level education and experience also cultivate leadership qualities and are increasingly sought by businesses of all sizes in a range of industries. Graduate degrees contribute to personal growth as well, providing opportunities for self-discovery that enhance professional acumen.”
While some students return to school following time in the workforce, many others stay on to pursue advanced degrees. Here, we profile just a handful of students who have continued their NJIT education on the graduate level.
JENNY GEORGE ’18
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Computer Engineering
Graduate Study: Master of Business Administration
Jenny George is pursuing an MBA with an eye toward an executive role one day, and she’s doing it while working full time as a consultant at Cognizant Technology Solutions, a multinational information technology services provider. Because the Union, N.J., native travels frequently for her job, she is taking advantage of the Martin Tuchman School of Management’s online MBA program. Her studies will also include a course or two in information systems that will enable her to specialize in the intersection between business and technology.
“NJIT speaks volumes for the immense technical foundation it provides to its students,” said George. “As I work with various clients, I feel the skills that I learn through this MBA will positively impact my professional relationships as I move through my career at Cognizant.”
George decided to carry on with her education to build on the technical background she garnered from her undergraduate studies at Newark College of Engineering. Specifically, she looks to hone her abilities in organization and group management, which she believes are just as key to ensuring project completion as technical knowledge.
“The freedom to think, design and actively motivate a group of individuals is what makes the field of business, to say the least, enticing to me.”
LEIGHANN LAURENCELLE ’17
Undergraduate Degree: B.A. Interior Design
Graduate Study: Master of Architecture
“In a way I've sort of always known that this was the field I wanted to end up in,” offered Leighann Laurencelle about architecture. “It became most obvious to me when my friend introduced me to Sims when I was about 10 and I fell in love with designing the houses on it. However, my dad saw it in me when I was a toddler riding on his shoulders through New York, pulling on his hair to point out all the different buildings.”
Laurencelle, who hails from Bridgewater, is entering her second and final year of the 4+2 program at NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design (CoAD), which waives a number of graduate classes due to the overlap between CoAD’s interior design and architecture programs. It was precisely 4+2 and the opportunity to immerse herself in both disciplines that drew her to NJIT.
“There was never a question in my mind about when or where to continue for my master’s. I knew coming in as a freshman I would be here for six years,” she commented, noting that being an NJIT undergrad, joining a sorority and making many friends helped cement her decision. “Frankly, I think it made the transition to grad school life better than if I had decided to go somewhere else.”
Looking ahead, Laurencelle wants to work for an architecture firm engaged in restoration and the reuse of old buildings. She also plans on becoming licensed in both architecture and interior design, and certified in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and WELL building, so she can help her clients “create buildings that are not only more environmentally friendly and efficient, but healthier for the people that will inhabit them.”
PRITINDER SINGH ’18
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Web and Information Systems
Graduate Study: Master of Science in Management
Pritinder Singh quips that he came to NJIT four years ago when his parents gave him no other choice, but he is quick to declare that doing so was one of the best decisions he’s ever made. He appreciated the warm and friendly university community that helped him build lasting relationships with both his peers and professors.
“Because of that environment, I knew it was a no-brainer when I decided to go for a master’s degree,” remarked Singh, who is completing a B.S./M.S. program, complementing his bachelor’s from NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing with an online master’s from Martin Tuchman School of Management.
From Parlin, N.J., Singh is balancing his graduate studies with running PD Technology, a digital marketing firm he started last year with a hometown friend. The business is doing well so far, and Singh hopes to expand it using the knowledge he will gain from his graduate education.
“Being a programmer, also having a background in business is something that a lot of companies look for,” he said. “Plus, it helps you get a better understanding of what role you will be playing in whatever venture you become a part of.”
THERESA WAGNER ’18
Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Information Technology–Network Security
Graduate Study: Master of Science in Information Technology Administration and Security
This fall marks Theresa Wagner’s final semester at NJIT. While technically it is also her first as a graduate student, according to the Office of the Registrar, she already has 90 percent of her master’s coursework completed. The Rockaway, N.J., resident is wrapping up her B.S./M.S. in information technology at Ying Wu College of Computing, which enabled her to begin her advanced degree in spring 2017. Since then she has taken classes during every semester and this past summer.
Her involvement in the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program helped expedite her studies as well. SFS encourages careers in federal cyber security, and toward this end covers a student’s master’s tuition and related expenses and provides a stipend, too. In return, the student must work for the federal government for one year in a cyber security-related position for each year of scholarship received.
“I always knew I wanted to pursue higher education than my B.S. degree, but did not quite have the funds to do it myself,” said Wagner, who will begin her SFS commitment in Washington, D.C. this January. “The SFS program was an awesome opportunity for me to continue to thrive in computer security. … To almost completely finish my master’s degree before finishing my undergraduate degree was also a plus, as I could hop right into finishing the degree only one semester after I graduated.”
As for her interest in cyber security, which she describes as “one giant logic puzzle”? “The vast diversity within the field and the opportunity to never do the same thing two days in a row excites me. … I want to be able to keep learning new information constantly to keep up with the workforce.”
*Council of Graduate Schools, 2008