A few years back, Western Carolina University’s Division of Information Technology added a project management office.
Because IT employee Dawn Brown worked closely with the project office, she thought it might be beneficial to learn more about project management. She enrolled in WCU’s Master of Project Management Program. Not only has it proven to be helpful in her IT role, but Brown said she now has a complete understanding of the entire project management process.
“It was a great experience,” said Brown, who graduated from the program in 2018. “The professors are all extremely talented. With it being an online program, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it turned out to be very challenging. Sometimes you might think that online learning might not be as challenging as face-to-face or the traditional methods, but in some ways, it was more challenging to do it totally online.”
One of her biggest obstacles was connecting with other students, who were located across the world, for team projects. However, the online experience allowed Brown to complete her assignments in the evenings and on weekends, while maintaining her IT job.
Brown, who has worked in IT at WCU for 16 years, is a customer experience and quality assurance specialist. Her duties entail following up on customer actions, such as comments on surveys or closed projects with stakeholders to see what their experience was like. She also prepares metric performance reports monthly for IT managers and directors, as well as quarterly and annually for the WCU Board of Trustees.
Her experience in the MPM program has allowed Brown to become more efficient in her position, she said.
“I’m involved a lot in working with the folks in the project management office and doing follow-ups for stakeholders’ satisfaction after a project gets closed,” Brown said. “It really helped me understand the entire process, especially the communication and how important it is for communicating with the stakeholders from the beginning to the end of the whole project process.”
During her last semester in the program, Brown wrote a research paper titled “The Importance of Assessment and Evaluation for Information Technology Projects in Higher Education.” Nathan Johnson, WCU assistant professor of management, suggested she submit the paper to a global conference last year. Brown was selected to present her work at the Human-Computer Interaction International Conference, which was virtual because of the global pandemic COVID-19.
“Dawn was a true asset to our program and was able to share her wealth of IT knowledge with her fellow students and apply that to project management scenarios,” said Johnson, who also is the director of WCU graduate programs in project management. “Not only did Dawn excel at her studies in the program, but she also had the opportunity to present her capstone research at a very prestigious international conference. We were thrilled that she had that experience and was able to wave the flag for Western with other academics and practitioners from around the world. We are confident that the tools and skillsets Dawn acquired during the MPM program will allow her to successfully run IT projects and set her on the path to senior management positions.”
Brown credits the MPM program for putting her on that path.
App Deadline: July 15, Nov. 15
Pre-Requisites: GRE NOT required
Time to Complete: 36 hours, 24 months