Students with a drone
Our Vision and Mission

MIT’s ground-breaking System Design and Management (SDM) educates future technical leaders in architecting, engineering, and designing complex products and systems. By integrating advanced studies in engineering and management sciences, SDM prepares early- and mid-career executives to be the senior leaders of their enterprises who remain engaged in a lifelong partnership with our innovative global community. Our students are trained to solve complex challenges at the intersection of engineering and business, enabling them to lead effectively and creatively.

Learn more about systems thinking

Our History: Research in Action

The SDM program was founded in 1996 in collaboration with industry partners in order to educate the technical leaders of tomorrow. Created, designed, and managed by an active partnership between the School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management, SDM sets the standard for delivering lifelong, career-and-family-compatible professional education, using advanced information and distance learning technologies.

SDM students, faculty, and alumni are part of a global community dedicated to meeting industry's complex and evolving needs. Together we seek maximum impact through a combination of rigorous academic curriculum and hands-on research.

Historical Highlights
SDM celebrates the program’s 25th anniversary – dated to the arrival of the first full cohort – by looking back to its founding and looking ahead to the next two decades of innovation, education, and preparing leaders for an increasingly complex and interconnected world.
A hand holds a compass.
MIT’s campus shuts down in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to our long history of distance education and hybrid instruction, the SDM program was prepared for the transition. We also launch a custom-built virtual space to provide an online event space for students, faculty, and staff where they could congregate and socialize no matter their physical location.
A blocky computer-generated representation of the MIT Dome with smaller humanoid figures in front of it
The faculty teaching SDM’s core class receive the 2017 MIT Teaching with Digital Technology Award for their work improving classroom instruction and student engagement in the hybrid class. The group includes Edward Crawley, the Ford Professor of Engineering in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Bruce Cameron, director of the System Architecture Lab and SDM lecturer; Bryan Moser, SDM lecturer and academic director of SDM; and Olivier de Weck, professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Bruce Cameron, standing in front of a chalkboard covered in writing
The program undergoes a significant transition, introducing the integrated core class and shifting to an August start date. By moving from a January start to an August start, students are aligned with MIT’s academic calendar and have more freedom to pursue summer internships. The new core class, Foundations of System Design and Management, takes an integrated approach to architecting, engineering, and managing the development of complex systems. Instead of taking separate classes in systems engineering, system architecture, and project management, students learn the fundamentals of all three key areas in a spiral approach that demonstrates the interconnectedness of these concepts.
A large group of students stand on stone steps. They are all in formal business attire and many of them are making silly faces or jumping in the air.
The first Bay Area Tech Trek takes place over spring break, bringing a group of SDM students to visit companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and giving them the chance to see how companies are tackling complex challenges in their industry. Host companies for the first year included Cisco, Tesla, Google, and Intel. Over the years SDM has visited dozens of companies from fledgling start-ups to global corporations, such as Yelp, Apple, Sun Microsystems, Gallo Wineries, Planet Labs,, and many more.
Students stand around an elaborate surgical robot, which has multiple segmented arms suspended from a central structure in midair.
The Master of Engineering Management Programs Consortium (MEMPC) launches, dedicated to sharing best practices in engineering and management education and promoting engineering management programs to students and organizations. SDM is an early member of the consortium and continues to participate in this collective as a partner program teaching engineering and management.
A group of students looking at a whiteboard, with two pointing out various items
The Systems Thinking Webinar Series launches, extending beyond the classroom to introduce principles of systems thinking in lectures that are free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Speakers over the history of the program have included a number of MIT faculty as well as program alumni highlighting their use of systems thinking in their work at companies like Otis Elevator Company, MDaaS, Xerox, and Raytheon, as well as the US Army and NASA.
Steve Eppinger, a man in a black suit and a pink tie, in the middle of delivering a talk
SDM establishes the Graduate Certificate in Systems and Product Development. This career-compatible program offers learners an opportunity to study the fundamentals of systems engineering, system architecture, and product management, with a capstone project replacing the thesis. Many students go on to join the master’s program after being introduced to SDM through the certificate program.
A lecture hall with two projector screens down at the front of the room, one screen filled with images of people who are participating in a video conference.
The first full cohort of students enters in January, with 36 students joining from a range of companies. Students begin with a month-long “boot camp” over MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP). With introductory lectures, team-building challenges, and social events, this orientation helps the students form a strong cohort bond and re-enter the academic mindset after years spent working away from the classroom.
Five students gather around a laptop
The first pilot students of the System Design and Management begin their studies. Sponsor companies include Ford, AT&T, IBM, and Raytheon. From its founding SDM is committed to distance learning, using early video conferencing techniques to communicate with remote sites that are the ancestors of platforms like Zoom.
MIT Dome