One Project At a Time...
It really seemed like a simple request at the time. Drake University, where I am an instructor, would be out of classroom space this fall for the normal evening classes, so they had asked if I would consider teaching my project management MBA elective as a weekend course. A quick consultation with my wife over schedules, and I confirmed it would work. Sure, I would have to tweak the materials, add in some exercises, switch around a few things... but after five years, it was time that the course material got a nice overhaul. How was I to know at the time I agreed to change my course, that I'd be changing more than I ever expected?
Change #1: Through my work with the local Project Management Institute chapter, I was introduced to the Des Moines Higher Education Collaborative, who was partnering with our chapter to develop a new training class on the "Art and Science of Project Management" to be offered to greater Des Moines organizations. This relationship, in turn, led to meeting Tom Simon, founder of iPrism Global. One thing led to another, and my Drake project management class was selected to pilot the iPrism software prior to the DMHEC class offering. This collaboration software will allow my students to hold virtual meetings through an online environment, manage their projects more effectively, and communicate more seamlessly. This should alleviate some of the annoying logistics of student project team meetings. In addition, we are able to hold classes at the new John and Mary Poppajohn Education Center in the heart of downtown Des Moines' newly renovated Gateway West district - the facilities and grounds are very conducive to a healthy learning environment. (Lesson learned: open yourself up for great opportunities.)
Change #2: The book store didn't place the book order in time (and the edition of the book had changed without warning). I had a nasty head cold. There was noisy road construction right outside the classroom, and (almost ironically) a large peace rally occurring on the other side of the building. I could have let these things get to me... but like good project managers, we punted... and, quite frankly, we scored. (Lesson learned: scoff at the little things.)
Change #3: Traditionally, I've simply requested my students to do a research project of local interest. It was a passive approach to learning, but in many cases it served its purpose and my students learned a thing or two about a real project that they could apply to what we discussed in class. That wasn't going to cut it this semester. I contacted a good friend at the United Way, who put me in touch with three excellent agencies who deal primarily with children. My students will be planning out a total of six projects for these three agencies. I'll be sharing more about each of the agencies in a future post. It was an emotionally entrancing experience hearing the directors (Ed, Althea, and Mary Lou) passionately talk about the great work that each of their agencies is doing and how they are making huge impacts in the lives of children like Cordell and Marissa. (Lesson learned: look for ways to give back and to serve.)
I think we're all in for a life changing experience. We covered a substantial amount of the scheduled course content this first weekend, but my "spidey sense" is telling me that we're all in for a much more enriching education that any of us bargained for... and any text book or lecture could ever provide. And I think my students - in their own special way - will change the world this semester... one project at a time.