July 12, 2017

Students in a Systems Engineering class.University of Detroit Mercy is helping meet the current need for engineers trained in Systems Engineering with its new Systems Engineering Graduate Certificate.

Detroit Mercy has been among the national leaders in Systems Engineering education through its Master of Science in Product Development (MPD) program. Now, students have a chance to earn a graduate certificate in Systems Engineering.

“What we’ve done is taken — in my opinion — the highest impact classes out of the MPD program, in terms of systems engineering, and compiled them into a tight, unified curriculum that exposes engineers to the current state of the art in systems engineering,” said Michael Vinarcik, adjunct professor at Detroit Mercy.

The Systems Engineering Graduate Certificate was created in joint with the Ford Motor Company, which already had employees enrolled in and graduating from the MPD program.

The credits earned in the Systems Engineering Graduate Certificate program can be used toward earning a master’s degree.

“It’s a great program,” said Ford employee Kyle Ebner. “I felt at home here. I felt like I could talk to any of the professors anytime I needed to, and they really strive to answer questions, even after hours. I think I learned more than I expected I was going to learn. I would recommend it to others and I have at work.”

Detroit Mercy’s professors are readily available to students, and they are also widely respected in the field of systems engineering. Vinarcik is considered one of the most visible Systems Engineering experts in the country and routinely speaks at systems engineering conferences hosted by the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). He recently keynoted the 2017 No Magic World Symposium.

“Mike brings a wealth of background and experience in systems engineering,” said Darrell Kleinke, director of the Systems Engineering Graduate Certificate program. “He’s taught in our Master of Product Development department for many years. Without exception, his courses are very well received. These are experienced engineers taking these classes, instantly applying what they’ve learned in our program to their jobs and careers, and seeing immediate results. Mike is very well respected by our students and their employers. He’s developed a great reputation with Detroit Mercy.”

Vinarcik’s reputation in systems engineering is well known throughout the industry. He holds INCOSE’s highest certification and is a fellow of the Engineering Society of Detroit. He enjoys passing along his wealth of knowledge to students at Detroit Mercy.

“He’s connected to industry,” Kleinke added. “He knows the key players that have cutting edge products and services that need systems engineering, and he’s involved with them as a consultant; he also has YouTube subscribers around the globe. He knows what the customers need and want in the field.”

The industry is constantly changing and evolving. Vinarcik is aware of those changes because he lives it every day as a leader in the field (he received the 2017 Cameo Award for Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis Excellence for his thought leadership in Model-Based Systems Engineering). As technology evolves, so does Detroit Mercy’s Systems Engineering program.

“Systems have become very complicated and complex with emergent behaviors,” Vinarcik said. “There are so many things that make developing a system complicated today versus even 20 years ago. To manage that complexity and improve the odds of program success, it takes access to and knowledge of the current state of the art in systems engineering. That’s what we’re trying to teach the students with these courses in both the MPD and certificate programs. It’s not just about tools and processes, but also about how to see the real problem that needs to be solved and to frame it properly. The worst thing you can do is to solve the wrong problem very efficiently.

“We’re trying to show students how to see, understand and solve the right problem.”

The program teaches students state-of-the-art methods, such as Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE). Students use SysML, the systems modeling language, to describe system behavior, structure, interfaces, and requirements. SysML allows engineers to make changes in one place and have that information cascade to every related artifact and not have to manually make changes to every document and picture.

“It’s an incredibly useful, general purpose language for describing systems, what they have to do and how they fit together,” Vinarcik said of SysML. “We use an industry-leading tool, No Magic’s MagicDraw, that enables us to author the SysML efficiently and to describe the systems. The most important thing about it is that it’s a consistent way to generate this information. … It lets us get additional rigor with no incremental effort and it greatly enhances consistency.

“The term that’s used a lot in the industry is that you have a single, authoritative repository of truth for the program. If we tell you that something weighs 50 pounds, every report, every diagram will accurate represent its weight as 50 pounds. There’s an internal consistency that’s impossible to get any other way. We’re leading practitioners of this approach. We have strong ties to the leading tool vendor, so the methods and approaches we teach here at the University are cutting edge applications of its technology.”

The program also exposes students to new technologies they might never see working at a single company.

“For students, because industry is very competitive and there is proprietary development and design all around, they don’t get to see what other companies are doing,” Kleinke said. “Of course, we don’t share any proprietary information, but Mike has significant visibility into applications in a variety of industries and organizations because of his involvement in INCOSE, NDIA and other organizations.  He can give them a feel for what the entire industry looks like and how they compare to others taking on similar challenges. With his experience and knowledge of how systems engineering been applied at other companies, he can bring that. That’s how he makes such an impact at our students’ companies so quickly.”

For more information on the Systems Engineering Graduate Certificate, please contact Director of Graduate Recruiting David Pistrui at 313-993-3378 or

— By Dave Pemberton. Follow Detroit Mercy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Have a story idea? Let us know by submitting your idea.