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From the file room to the boardroom

With her sights set, engineering master’s student takes no shortcuts to success

Ingrid Scheel, Oregon State Ecampus student pursuing her engineering management master's degree online

Despite an early detour in her academic career, Ingrid Scheel has never stopped working toward her lifelong goal of making an impact through engineering and research. (Photos by Chris Becerra)

By Tyler Hansen
Feb. 26, 2018

Some things are so small, you can barely see them. But that doesn’t mean you lack vision.

Twelve years ago, Ingrid Scheel was burned out in an engineering degree program on campus at Oregon State University, and she was working part time filing papers and doing office maintenance at a small fiber optic sensor firm near Portland.

Fast forward a dozen years, and Ingrid holds two degrees from Oregon State, one in English and one in electrical engineering. Those papers she used to file? Now she signs them as the company’s vice president.

And to keep the firm on the leading edge of research in hair-thin micro sensors, she’s pursuing an engineering management master’s degree 100 percent online with Oregon State Ecampus.

Based on her early results in the real world, you likely wouldn’t have predicted that she would flourish. Ingrid, however, never lost sight of what she planned to achieve.

“I grew up in a small business. I watched my dad and mother and all their employees build from the ground up these amazing sensor technologies and applications,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to play a role in that, in making the world a safer place. And now I do.”

Ingrid Scheel, Oregon State Ecampus student pursuing her engineering management master's degree online

Ingrid Scheel is vice president of Columbia Gorge Research and is on track to earn her master’s degree later this year.

Don’t be fooled by the seeming sense of contentment within that statement. Her grunt work days are long over – with years of conducting field tests, data reduction and reporting on her résumé – but her hardest and most important work awaits.

In January 2018, she was named vice president of Columbia Gorge Research. The firm was founded and is run by her father, Eric Udd, who is a leading authority in the fiber optic sensor field. He holds more than 40 issued U.S. patents. Now he’s semi-retired, and Ingrid is in line to take over someday.

The shoes she must fill are rather large. The pressure is even bigger. Still, they pale in comparison to Ingrid’s outsized ambition and plans for the company.

“How do you advocate for yourself to be a worthy person to work for? First of all, you work,” she says. “This master’s degree is my manifestation in the pursuit of that. I want to be the best boss I can be and make smart financial decisions that lead to even higher levels of success.”

Offered by Oregon State’s College of Engineering and delivered entirely online by OSU Ecampus, the engineering management master’s program is like an MBA customized for engineers. Students like Ingrid in the program have a passion for engineering but also a desire to work in leadership positions.

The rigorous curriculum delivers engineering expertise that you can’t find in a generalized MBA, making it the ideal fit for engineers who want to improve their business acumen.

“There are some courses in the online curriculum that have blown me out of the water. The skills you learn in class can be directly applied to your work,” Ingrid says. “This program will have a big impact on how our company will operate in terms of running lean and accommodating different work structures.”

“With every class I take, I’m able to apply the knowledge to the vision I’ve always had. It’s turning my dream into a more concrete reality one step at a time.”

At the heart of her work with Columbia Gorge Research is a mission to advance fiber optic sensor technology and develop solutions for problems where other sensor types fail. Even though it’s a small company with a half-dozen employees, the work is vital.

What happens when sensor types fail? Catastrophic events can occur. Planes crash. Trains derail. When Ingrid talks about making the world a safer place through the company’s innovative research, it’s not hyperbole.

She has been witness to this work since she was 6 years old. The desire to engineer and lead these technological advances has always been there, even after she temporarily decided that life as an engineering student wasn’t for her.

Now, with graduation looming later this summer, everything that was once a distant dream is within reach.

“I feel more prepared every day to take on this massive role,” Ingrid says. “With every class I take, I’m able to apply the knowledge to the vision I’ve always had. It’s turning my dream into a more concrete reality one step at a time.”

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