Planning and Project Management Students Make a Difference in the Community

February 09 2017
Category: Academics

A key course in Elmira College’s Master of Science in management program is Planning and Project Management, in which students learn and apply knowledge about strategic planning and project management. Strategic planning within an organization, be it industry, healthcare, or a community agency, is the process that allows the organization to identify “projects” that are required to achieve its vision, mission, and overall objectives. 

The class is offered yearly and has some unique features that allow graduate students to gain real world project management experience, or applied learning. 

“Project management is a key leadership tool in most organizations because its benefits are numerous - better efficiency in delivering services, structured approach, improved or enhanced customer satisfaction, improved growth and development within your team, increased risk assessment and increase in quality,” said Dr. Vincent Howell, the course instructor.     

Dr. Howell shared that the best way to for students to learn project management is to couple applied learning with what is studied in the classroom setting. 

“During my industry career, I was a project manager in international settings – U.S., Japan, Taiwan.  This experience taught me that project management goes beyond book learning, especially when you consider technology, people, and cultural implications,” explained Dr. Howell.

In preparing for the course, Dr. Howell reached out to community agencies to see how the students could learn project management doing real projects, while at the same time providing a benefit to the sponsoring agencies. Meals on Wheels, The Chemung County Historical Society, and Catholic Charities of Chemung and Schuyler Counties stepped up to the plate and enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to work with the classes. 

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Students have completed projects including a plan for a Meals on Wheels facility, evaluating and recommending options for implementation of sustainable enterprise options for Catholic Charities, developing a five-year strategic plan, and analyzing the Historical Society’s strategic plan. 

“The students who took on this project provided us with a footing from which we can further pursue one of the sustainable enterprise options. The initial work they performed got us out of the runner's block and gave us solid information on which option to pursue further with a feasibility study.  The products they provided (concept papers) will go a long way to satisfying one of our strategic objectives,” said Charles Nocera, executive director of Catholic Charities, located on East Church Street in Elmira.

Over the past year, graduate students in the M.S. Management program also completed two projects with Meals on Wheels, an important community agency that is committed to supporting senior neighbors to live healthier and more nourished lives in their own homes.

“As a small nonprofit, one of our shortcomings is having staff and personnel to plan. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Elmira College students.  Not only were they fresh eyes for our situation, but also their creativity was remarkable. We ended with two documents that I have been able to refer to and use with funders and to help us work towards our future,” said Darlene Ike, executive director of Meals on Wheels.

Dr. Howell emphasized that project management is an important skill that will give students a competitive edge in their career.  Project management professionals note that this is a growing field used increasingly by organizations and businesses of all sizes. Industry, healthcare, and other company leaders deal with the daily responsibilities of managing an organization, and as such, they will always need project managers to oversee projects from start to completion. 

“The hands-on applications during the course and real-life collaboration amongst the teams enhanced our skills of leadership and cooperative interaction, both of which are so critical in project management success,” said graduate student, Kenneth Buck ’17.   

“Understanding and applying project management tools helps organizations carry out successful projects, regardless of size, on time, on budget, on schedule, and meeting the required objectives,” said Dr. Howell.

Click here to learn more about the Master of Science in Management program.