Mastering the Future: Andrew Femrite’s Vision for Engineering

Written by Amanda Wicks • Updated on

With over 25 years of industry experience, Andrew Femrite helped develop the University of Colorado Boulder’s professional master’s program in electrical engineering.

[Featured image] University of Colorado Boulder's Professor of Engineering Practice Andrew Femrite

After spending 25 years working in industry—first in design engineering, later in applications engineering, and eventually in management—Andrew Femrite was looking for a new challenge. But the offer he got didn’t come from the private sector. Instead, his alma mater, the University of Colorado Boulder, piqued his interest. 

Femrite had been serving on the industrial advisory board for the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering, where he’d once earned his bachelor’s degree, when he was approached about teaching the capstone class. And would he also be interested in helping mount a new professional master’s program? 

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said of the moment. “This is obviously what I need to do. I was ready for a new challenge and this sounded like a lot of fun.” 

Femrite’s extensive experience in the professional world helped him formulate what a student should encounter in the academic one. “When I came back to Boulder, there were only two or three legitimate embedded systems courses in the department, so it was pretty easy from my experience in industry to see what we could expand on there,” said Femrite, now a Teaching Associate Professor and Faculty Director of ECEE’s Professional Master’s Program. He also began hiring instructors to build and teach those new courses. “We expanded rapidly over two years.” 

That expansion was not just programmatic—it also stretched to encompass new modalities. “As we started approaching steady state, we started moving some of that curriculum into Coursera’s format,” he said. When it came time to translate in-person courses to an online experience, Femrite set a high bar—and was wowed when his faculty rose to the challenge. “I’m proud to have found really great talent to develop these courses,” he said. “Prospective learners should understand that this is not just recording classes and breaking them into small videos. This is way beyond that.” 

Now, you can earn your Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder online through Coursera. The program features three focus areas—power electronics, embedded systems, and photonics and optics—and thanks to the flexible, self-paced nature of the program, you can learn around your other responsibilities. “We’ve designed it specifically for people who have real lives,” Femrite said, whether that means a job, career, family, or another pressing duty. 

The degree program tends to draw students with backgrounds in relevant fields, like computer science or aerospace engineering. “In that case, they’re just missing a few pieces to round out their electrical engineering,” he explained. But it also draws students looking for “transformational knowledge” who want to pivot careers and need the education and credentials to do so.  

For anyone interested in the program, Femrite acknowledged that some baseline knowledge is required to succeed. “Some background in electronics and development is definitely a must,” he explained. “You do not need a bachelor’s degree, but you do need to have some computer architecture, programming, some work with lab equipment, some knowledge of electronics.” 

Since the online master’s in electrical engineering is professional in nature, it doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, students don’t need to submit a formal application at all. Instead, they take and pass three pathway courses, which verify that they can do the work. This approach, called performance-based admission, is one way CU Boulder strives to make master’s degrees more accessible while offering students the same education they’d receive if they attended in person.   

Femrite is proud of what his team has accomplished. “Our goals from the beginning have been to convey exactly the curriculum and the rigor and the benefit and the learning we’ve done on campus to students worldwide through Coursera,” he said. “I think they’ve done a fantastic job of it, really.” 

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

SEO Content Manager II

Amanda Wicks has developed and produced content for New York University, University of North Carolin...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.