April 25, 2024

A Five Year Journey

In 2019, Luis Crespo ’23 learned that Penn Engineering was about to introduce an innovative online graduate program created especially for students with no background in computer science who are looking to build a strong foundation in programming. With classes held entirely online, the online Master of Computer and Information Technology (MCIT Online) program was specifically designed to offer an Ivy League academic experience that is accessible to people living and working all over the world.

Crespo desired a deeper technical understanding, but needed to  accommodate  his schedule and professional commitments. He decided to take the leap and joined the MCIT Online program’s inaugural cohort in January 2019. Five years later, in December 2023, he graduated from the program with a master’s degree — just as the program was getting ready to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

Looking back on his five year journey with MCIT Online, Crespo says the program’s flexibility was a key factor in his decision to enroll. “Being able to take it at my own pace was a big draw for me,” says Crespo, who continued to work full time while taking one or two courses a year (an approach known among MCIT Online students as “turtle-ing”). 

Professor Hamed Hassani in production for the MSE-DS Online course, “Statistics for Data Science”.

As a “turtle” who has been with the program since the beginning, Crespo watched Penn Engineering Online grow and evolve in real-time. During its first five years, the program developed tremendously: the student body has grown from an inaugural cohort of 240 students to nearly 2,000 today, and the number of master’s programs doubled in 2022 with the introduction of the online Master of Science in Engineering in Data Science (MSE-DS Online) degree. Geographically, the program has expanded to welcome students from 46 countries around the world.

The addition of three online certificate programs in 2023 provided new pathways for Penn Engineering alumni, and the portfolio of non-credit MOOCS offered by Penn Engineering Online continues to rise, extending access to Penn’s Ivy League expertise to a wide-reaching audience of learners. 

But for Crespo, Penn Engineering Online’s most important growth during his five years has centered on the program’s ability to foster connections and relationships.

“One of the biggest changes is how the sense of community has taken shape,” he says.

“There has been a concerted and active effort to bring people together for talks, road trips and other events.”

Students gathered in San Francisco for a Road Trip program.

While opportunities to connect and forge relationships have become more plentiful in recent years, Crespo notes that he was still able to develop strong connections with classmates even in his earliest courses, meeting classmates in-person and continuing to take classes alongside many of them.

Crespo points to one thing that hasn’t changed throughout the program’s first five years – the unwavering support and dedication of faculty and staff. “Everyone in the program, from the staff to the professors, expresses their support for students and works to make the program a success,” he says. “That theme was pervasive throughout my experience with the program.”

With this support, Crespo and many others have experienced growth and achieved aspirations over the last five years. Since its inception in 2019, Penn Engineering Online has enrolled a total of 3,697 students. So far, 953 of those individuals – including Crespo – have graduated with MCIT degrees. Penn Engineering reflects back on these accomplishments and milestones with appreciation for everyone who has been a part of the five year journey so far – and looks forward to seeing what the next five years will hold!

Tags: MCIT Online