Designing an Academic Project Management Program: A Collaboration between a University and a PMI Chapter

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Projects are taking a more prominent position in strategic planning and organizational success in today's competitive environment. Industry has indicated a desire for universities to produce graduates with critical thinking, leadership, collaborative problem solving, and technical skills related to project management (Smith et al., 2008). Universities are responding to the increasing industry demand by developing project management courses, degree offerings, and certificate programs (Smith, et al., 2008).

Within the literature there is significant coverage related to teaching project management, much of it related to different approaches to developing the necessary skills required to successfully manage organizational projects. Problem-based learning has been proposed as an effective way to utilize project work to engage students in a life-like environment (Guthrie, 2010). The importance of assigning interdisciplinary teams that mimic the diversity organizational functional units (Kruck and Teer, 2009) has been addressed. Programmatic approaches to teaching project management have been offered, including: the need for specific project management courses, integration of project management skills into a degree program, and the evolution of long-term projects that span the life of a degree program (Smith et al., 2008). Davis (2007) illustrates the effective use of mini-cases in order to broaden student thinking by raising difficult and focused questions without the overhead of working with a larger case. While the focus of each of these activities remain important to graduating students that obtain relevant project management skills in a "real world" experience, there is currently a void in the literature related to innovative ways of incorporating industry professionals to both participate in and inform activities in the classroom.

We propose that collaborating with professional organizations within industry is an effective way to incorporate "real world" experience into the classroom itself. However, balancing the role of industry within the classroom can be a problematic. The goal of this article is to address the void in the literature by exploring the question, how can university information systems departments provide effective industry connected project management courses and programs for its students? We report a single case that describes and defines one approach to developing a project management program through the development of academic course offerings in a collaborative effort between a university and a local chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI). The result of this collaboration is an undergraduate project management minor program created within information systems department in which members of the PMI are continually and actively engaged in the program and are an integral part of ongoing classroom activities and projects. This collaboration is designed to incorporate current industry demands into academic offerings in order to bring hands-on experience into the classroom while addressing the academic rigor of the university milieus.

This paper proceeds as follows. First, the evolution of project management in industry and the demand for project management programs in universities that graduate students that meet industry demand is presented. We then report a case that describes the evolution of a collaborative effort between a university information systems department and a local chapter of the PMI, resulting in a project management minor program designed to meet both industry and academic needs. Specific course activities, outcomes, and implementation experiences are described. Finally we present a lessons learned section that captures both successes and challenges throughout the evolution of the program.

2. BACKGROUND AND RELATED WORK

The motivation for this paper is derived from the intersection of increasing industry demand for competent and qualified project managers and the attempts of universities to develop project management classes and programs that graduate students with the skills to meet industry needs. …