Mia McNamee had hit the natural end of her career path. The 48-year-old creative director at a Silicon Valley tech company said she wanted to hone her skills, but was unsure how and apprehensive about going back to school.
Then came a chance to enroll in a data science course with a flexible schedule, so she jumped at the opportunity. Best of all, she didn’t have to leave her office.
McNamee is one of several students piloting a new program Northeastern University plans to open this fall. The university has struck a partnership with the company where McNamee works, Integrated Device Technology, to open a small Northeastern campus inside its San Jose corporate headquarters, aimed at reaching midcareer workers like McNamee.
The program, a mix of online and classroom instruction taught by Northeastern professors, hopes to serve 300 students over the next three years at the IDT site, with a goal of opening future sites within other companies. It will offer a master’s degree in engineering management and two certificate programs in data science and technology project management, according to the university.
The Silicon Valley venture, set to be announced Monday, represents Northeastern’s latest move to broaden its brand and seek new revenues. The college also has outposts in Charlotte, N.C., and Seattle.
“We believe everything we do should reduce the black hole between industry and education,” said Philomena Mantella, a senior vice president and chief executive of the Northeastern University Global Network.
As part of her job as creative director, McNamee helps executives visualize data for investors.
“Knowing what’s behind [the data] really helps me as a designer and helps me help them to communicate that,” said McNamee, who squeezed in her six-week online class while working full time.
Tuition for the new venture is $21,680 for a graduate certificate in data science, $10,692 for a graduate certificate in project management, and $43,328 for a master’s degree in engineering management, according to the university.
IDT develops semiconductors and collects about $575 million in annual revenue. It has 1,500 employees, about half of whom work in the United States. Employees will be able to take classes at a discount, a sort of swap with Northeastern, which is renting an 8,000-square-foot, unused floor in the IDT building.
Other colleges have tapped into the Bay Area; Babson College has a San Francisco campus offering entrepreneurship courses and company visits.
For its program, Northeastern stresses the advantages of embedding students inside a company. “We have opportunity to go to where the learners are,” said Northeastern president Joseph Aoun.
Partnerships between universities and private companies are not new. But Northeastern’s model is the inverse of the typical scenario, where a business approaches a university for collaboration, said Steve Barkanic, senior vice president and chief program officer at the Business-Higher Education Forum.
“It can foster really interesting and unique synergies,” he said, adding that universities must be careful to not tailor the curriculum too much toward one company or compromise academic freedom.
On the IDT “campus,” interaction between IDT and Northeastern students will be as informal as hallway chatter and basketball league games and as formal as job and internship opportunities, officials said.
Greg Waters, the chief executive and president of IDT, has a master’s in computer science from Northeastern and said he hopes the partnership will help him attract talented employees. He also foresees opportunities to collaborate with Northeastern on research.
The deans of Northeastern’s engineering and computer science colleges are both women. Winters said he also hopes the programs will encourage more women and minorities to enter the technology sector.
“As a woman professional, I know I wouldn’t ordinarily have thought about going into data science, but [IDT] really did encourage it,” McNamee said.