Army colonel teaches Northeast engineers to be leaders | Jobs Vox


Mike Manning, a Northeastern professor, served in the Iraq war zone in 2005. Later came a dangerous posting to Afghanistan—bookended with a mission in Kosovo, another theater of conflict early in his career.

In his previous life as a US Army colonel, Manning developed a range of leadership skills under pressure. Since 2020, when he became professor of engineering leadership, Manning has been applying those lessons to help graduate students explore and discover their potential.

Manning is a professor at the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership, a one-year program that annually trains 45 Northeastern students in team-building and leadership skills. Applying his experiences in a new way, Manning—known among his students as “Colonel Mike”—is endorsing the vision of Bernard M. Gordon, a Navy veteran and tech entrepreneur who, in 2007, The institute was created to identify and train the next. Generation of engineering pioneers and leaders.

“Bernie Gordon sees the Army as the premier leadership learning organization in the country,” says Steve McGonagall, a retired Army colonel who recommended Manning as his replacement when he retired from the Gordon Institute two years ago.

Mike Manning's headshot
Mike Manning (or “Colonel Mike,” as his students know him), professor at the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership. Photo by Alyssa Stone / Northeastern University

After leaving the Navy and earning an electrical engineering degree through the GI Bill, Gordon is known as the father of high-speed analog-to-digital conversion, leading teams that built a variety of high-tech equipment. Design and make. Gordon, who is 95, started three companies along the way, which convinced him to start institutes and programs at several universities, including at Northeastern.

“They found they were recruiting engineers who lacked some key skills to invent, innovate and most importantly implement,” says Simon Pitts, director of the institute. “So they’ve put a lot of money into fixing the problem, along with Northeastern and other institutions.”

One of the institute’s goals is to help broaden the perspectives of engineers and technical experts by taking into account the views of colleagues representing diverse disciplines as well as customer needs. Students are placed in groups so that each is focused on supporting their half dozen peers.

“Our premise is that leadership is a skill that can be taught,” says Steven Klosterman, a professor of engineering leadership who helped design the institute’s curriculum, which is offered by the College of Engineering, College of Science, and Khoury. is integrated with the ongoing Master’s degree. College of Computer Science. “A second lieutenant in the U.S. Army at age 23 is able to command tens if not hundreds of people in mission-critical situations with accuracy, poise, and competence — and they teach those skills during their training with the military. as officers.

Rather than waiting for engineers to develop leadership qualities the hard way through years of on-the-job training, the institute focuses on those skills through what Klosterman calls a “one-year boot camp.” The program culminates in a challenge project – the equivalent of a thesis – in which each student identifies and solves a problem within their current organization with the help of teammates and mentors.

Half of the institute’s graduates earn company promotions within one year, and three-quarters of them are promoted within two years. The students represent a highly diverse group of life experiences from around the world – which makes Manning feel like home.

“The military has to be the most diverse secular organization in America,” says Manning. “I’ve learned this idea of ​​bringing people with very different perspectives and backgrounds into the military and creating an opportunity for them to use their voices.”


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