A Degree to Success
By: Scott Price, CGC '12
From the 2012 Edition of Citadel Magazine
The clock strikes 5:00 p.m. just as the weekly video teleconference with our West Coast customer concludes. It has been a long, demanding day, but it is not yet over. Class begins in an hour. I shut down the computer in my office, grab my briefcase with the homework and textbooks for tonight’s class, Decision and Risk Analysis, and make my way to the Lowcountry Graduate Center in North Charleston. For more than two years I have been taking graduate classes in the evening while working full time, but accepting the challenge of enrolling in The Citadel’s master’s degree program in project management has been a rewarding decision that I am glad I made.
Project management is an internationally recognized and rapidly growing occupation. In 2008, an Anderson Economic Group study determined that approximately 1.2 million project management jobs will be filled annually on a global scale through 2016.
As a professional in the defense industry, which is primarily project management based, I was interested in learning more about formal project management and intrigued to hear about the technical project management curriculum.
As a program analyst working with project managers performing installation services for the U.S. Navy, I used project management principles at work every day. Although I was already familiar with the processes, I was only beginning to understand the project management activities on a larger scale. These classes were flexible enough to allow me to grasp the formal course material by relating the assigned homework to my work and putting them into a context that benefitted my learning.
Project management is a vast occupation, with local applications that range from designing the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to building a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I found the course material and instruction to be so valuable that there was no question of stopping after the first class. I continued the curriculum and completed the technical project management certification. Within the year, I was planning to take the project management professional exam.
During this time, Professors Keith Plemmons and Charles Skipper, both of the School of Engineering, had been working together to create the new Master of Science in Project Management degree. The accredited program was designed so that the four technical project management classes required for the TPM certificate would serve as the core courses of the graduate degree. I had wanted to get a master’s degree, and suddenly I was already 40 percent into a master’s curriculum that I not only enjoyed but also found tremendously valuable in my line of work.
When I formally applied to The Citadel Graduate College to continue my academic path, I enrolled in the first of two leadership classes. Shortly before returning to school, I had earned a promotion to a deputy program manager position. The leadership classes could not have come at a better time. The course material focused on the student as well as on understanding other people and how leaders are developed.
All of the classes are designed with the objective to teach what we will experience on the job in the real world. The first leadership class offers an introduction to leadership, and the second dives right into applied leadership concepts. Testing this theory, we, as a class, developed a list of questions and interviewed several prominent leaders at executive levels or higher. We compared what we learned from the interviews to the coursework we were studying. When we measured real life against the lessons and objectives of our coursework, we determined that, without a doubt, the concepts we were studying are consistently practiced by each of the leaders we interviewed.
One of the most well-known interview subjects was Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, ’64. A mayor in his 10th term, Riley is credited with restoring Charleston after the destruction caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, turning the city into the thriving metropolis we know today. His vision and his leadership were awe inspiring.The project management program is expanding to include program management, decision and risk analysis, legal and contract aspects of program management, civil and environmental engineering, and electrical and computer engineering. Because the classes are taught in the evenings, they did not interfere with my work schedule. Though I was a little nervous at first about going back to school after being out of college for more than 16 years, I felt comfortable in the classroom and was impressed that the professors would welcome our discussion of work experiences to demonstrate the concepts being taught.
If I were asked whether the project management program changed my life for the better, I would have to say, “Absolutely.” Working through this master’s degree at an institution as prestigious as The Citadel has prepared me to meet the daily challenges I face in a demanding project-management-based industry. I have grown professionally as well as personally. The Citadel’s project management program is the cornerstone of my career advancement and personal development.
Scott Price is a deputy program manager with VT Milcom, a local defense contractor supporting U.S. Navy programs. He earned his Project Management Professional certification in September of 2010 and was awarded his Masters of Science in Project Management in December of 2012. He has worked in the defense industry for 10 years.