Deputy chief engineer for solar system exploration at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Howard Eisen ’12 is responsible for organizing and executing space missions to Saturn and Mars. After 30 years at the organization, he realized he was lacking business knowledge required for larger projects, so he looked to the University of Redlands.
The U of R’s partnership with JPL made it easy for Eisen to earn a master’s degree in business administration. “JPL has always been very good about making sure that employees have opportunities to improve themselves,” he says. “Bringing the Redlands MBA program to our facility made it much easier for employees to benefit from business courses.”
Eisen notes that in addition to earning a degree, taking classes with colleagues has expanded his professional network. “JPL has over 6,000 employees, so I didn’t know most of the people who were in my cohort,” he says. “Now, I have a large number of coworkers who I share an experience with, and I get to work with them every day.”
In addition to influencing his work life, Eisen brought experiences from the program home. By going back to school, he wanted to show his kids that lifelong learning was an important part of the family’s shared values. “We developed some competition, where they always wanted to know if I did well on a test or if my grades were better than theirs,” he says with a laugh.
Balancing work, school, and a home life was simple, Eisen says. Going to class just one day a week meant that the other nights were free for catching up on his work or spending time with his family. For class projects, he was able to meet with classmates in the evenings or during lunch hours. “There was plenty of time to make everything fit in,” he says.
Once he completed the program, Eisen took another step and became an adjunct professor at the University of Redlands Burbank campus. “I think my students enjoy my knowledge and experience,” he says. “A lot of the concepts of engineering are not so different from the concepts in business.”
Eisen attributes his journey from student to professor to the University of Redlands. “The University of Redlands is great because it physically brings the classes to the people,” he says. “Having satellite campuses means that people can go and take classes where they live or where they work, with people who are in the same environments and neighborhoods. They can share in the educational experience.”