First in class

Aaron Anderson knew he wanted to study engineering. He always wondered how things worked and how to make things better – making note of his childhood love of Legos.

“I knew I wanted to be an engineer, except I wasn’t sure which discipline. I attended UND’s engineering orientation, met a few professors, and decided to jump in feet first to electrical — I haven’t looked back. In a sense, it was dumb luck,” said Anderson.

University of North Dakota Electrical Engineering Master'sAfter completing his electrical engineering bachelor’s degree from UND, Anderson accepted a job with Emerson Process Management. However, the job wasn’t correlating with what he desired to do. He changed companies and began working at Starkey as a radio frequency (RF) design engineer. The position at Starkey allowed him to use what he learned at UND and directly apply it to his every day work tasks.

Originally, Anderson wanted to go straight into a master’s program after completing his bachelor’s degree. But as a firm believer that experience holds tremendous value, he soon realized it was best to step away from school and focus on real world experiences. A decision he does not regret.

“I believe delaying my Master’s of Electrical Engineering (MSEE) degree, in favor of work experience, was worth it,” said Anderson.

Soon after gaining experience, Anderson decided to pursue an MSEE degree. The only problem, in order to complete it, he would need to commute two plus nights a week. That was, until he struck up the idea of pursuing the degree online through UND.

“In order to qualify for my employer’s tuition reimbursement, the degree program needed to be ABET accredited. UND’s undergraduate/bachelor programs are accredited; however, its online MSEE program is not (since ABET accreditation usually is not sought for graduate level programs). I worked together with the Dean of Graduate Studies and my employer, making sure the online MSEE would work; as essentially, it’s the same coursework,” said Anderson.

Anderson’s persistence payed off, as he was approved to work toward his MSEE online, which allowed him to continue working full time.

“Aaron was my advisee during his undergraduate degree. After graduation, he asked about taking classes online, but at the time there wasn’t an online offering. After visiting with the Dean, we found he could apply for the program,” said Sima Noghanian, Associate Professor of UND’s Electrical Engineering program. “If it weren’t for Aaron, we may not be offering the MSEE online.”

One of the key benefits for MSEE students is the opportunity to complete the degree and coursework online, 100 percent at a distance.

“Students have access to all courses online and there is no need to travel to Grand Forks (the location of UND’s campus). In addition to the recorded lectures, faculty work with students through email and Skype. We have a good history of offering online courses and working with students. Faculty are well aware of their commitment to our distance students,” explained Noghanian.

One reason Anderson looked at obtaining an MSEE, was to specialize in his interest.

“It is quite evident a bachelor’s degree teaches enough to get by, but to really understand (or specialize in) a particular field, additional study is needed. In my case, electromagnetic propagation/wireless was briefly studied at the undergraduate level, but in my MSEE studies, I’ve gained a much deeper understanding on the subject,” said Anderson.

Anderson will be the first UND student to complete their MSEE degree online. While it’s a fine honor, it also made for unique situations. For instance, at one point, he was the only one interacting online – the program did not yet have other online students.

“Last semester, Dr. Noghanian, myself and two other on-campus graduate students were in a discussion-based advanced engineering electromagnetics course. The format was quite different than a typical lecture-based course – we would read a section of the text, explain our takeaways to the others, and then follow up with discussion. As I was the only distance student, my involvement was through Skype,” said Anderson.

Time commitment

Anderson explained some classes required more work than others, but things always ramped up before an exam.

“A typical course probably takes about three hours of lectures per week, and homework is typically due every other week,” said Anderson.

Since he’s taken roughly six credits per semester, Anderson plans to graduate this semester, finishing his degree in two years. Even though he’ll be completing his Master’s, Anderson doesn’t anticipate much changing after graduation. He’s happy with his position at Starkey.

“I am looking forward to a bit more free-time,” added Anderson.

The Master’s in Electrical Electrical engineering is a 2-year, 32+ credit program, offered 100 percent online. Visit for more information.


By Hannah Manske
Communications Intern

One thought on “First in class

  • December 17, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Good job Aaron….well done!


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