Emerging Trends in Project Management Education – Interview with Endowed Chair Dr. Emad Rahim

Dr. Emad Rahim

Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, author and community leader. He currently serves as the Endowed Chair for The Project Management Center of Excellence and is ranked as an Associate Professor in the College of Science and Technology at Bellevue University. He is a Fulbright Fellow and JWMI Fellow at the Jack Welch Management Institute and was the former Visiting Scholar at Rutgers University and Oklahoma State University.

Dr. Rahim has over a decade of project management experience, and has written extensively on the topic. He earned several industry certifications including PMP™ (Project Management Professional), CCPM™ (Certified Cheetah Project Manager), OMCP™ (Online Marketing Certified Professional), CM™ (Certified Manager), and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.

Dr. Rahim completed his post-doctoral studies at Harvard University, Tulane University and the University of Maryland University College. He earned a doctorate in management and MS in project management from Colorado Tech, and completed his undergraduate education at Empire State College. He has been interviewed by PM Network Magazine, Colorado Tech’s INSITE vlog, Project Management Podcast show, Forbes Magazine and featured in CEO Magazine, Huffington Post and Worldclass Magazine.

What does a project manager do?
To better answer your question I think it is important to first explain what project management is. Project management is defined as the act of applying knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to successfully fulfill the objectives of a project. Given this context, project managers are responsible in leading the work that is needed to meet those project requirements.

That is a pretty simplistic description. Can please elaborate a little more?
We want people to better understand the field. Keeping it simple allows them to take the technical aspect out of the conversation. We manage projects every day – at home and professionally. Remodeling a kitchen or creating a backyard oasis are examples of projects. Developing a new product at work or running a political campaign are also examples projects. The big difference is how you manage them. What skills, education, experience and tools you bring to the table that sets you apart.

What type of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques should project managers have?
A project manager needs to know how to manage the entire project lifecycle from start to finish. There are a total of 5 process groups that a project manager will need experience in when managing an organizational project. This includes Initiating (starting), Planning (documenting), Executing (acting), Monitoring (controlling), and formally Closing the project. In order to do this effectively, project managers need to have solid knowledge and experience in managing things like cost, risk, quality, procurement, human resource, project scope and scheduling. Those are examples of important technical skills, but project managers also need to have great people skills and leadership qualities. 90% of their job is communication, working closely with stakeholders and integrating project information from various places. Often it’s the project manager that works directly with the sponsor and client.

There are a lot of project management degree programs out there. What makes your program different from other universities?
It is actually a wonderful thing to see so many degree programs and disciplines in project management. It shows how the field is growing and evolving. There are two types of project management degree programs. A degree program allows students to do a concentration in project management or specialize in the field of project management. An MBA degree in project management is considered a concentration offering because the majority of the courses focuses in the business core. Bellevue University’s MPM (Master in Project Management) degree allows you to immerse yourself in all aspects of project management. Every single course you take is in project management.

What about a science or arts degree in project management?
That is a great question. Science and art degrees do allow some specialization. But, you are often required to take some general education courses or electives outside the project management disciplined. Depending on the college, you may have to take courses in economic, statistics, finance and even liberal arts to fulfill the degree requirements. At Bellevue University, our curriculum focuses heavily in project management, balancing theory and practice, and helping students to develop both their hard skills and soft skills equally. This means topics like leadership, communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and problem solving are not overlooked.

A lot of universities say they teach things like leadership, communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and problem solving also. How are you doing this in your program?
Many universities and degree programs follow a theoretical approach in teaching. Their curriculum is often heavy in research and theory. While some of the concepts do reflect a good amount of theoretical perspectives, project management is more heavy in application. The Bellevue University MPM degree program takes an applied approach to educating students on the field of project management. Our courses are designed using project-based learning models, where students are placed in a project scenario, and expected to apply what they are learning in the course to solve complex project problems. They see how what they are learning applies each week to a real organizational environment. They are taught and mentored by professional project managers in the field. 90% of our faculty in the MPM program have terminal degrees and industry certifications in addition to decades of project management experience. Students are also supported by the Project Management Center of Excellence, which expose them to emerging trends in the field and provide them access to professional resources and a distinguished project management network.

Those are great points, but why an MPM degree? I only noticed a handful of universities that offer a MPM degree in my search.
The MPM degree is an advanced professional program that is academically recognized as a terminal degree. We believe that a graduate level degree in project management should provide its students with advanced training in the profession.  Like a terminal degree, students truly have the opportunity to specialize in the discipline and achieve the highest level of mastery of this specialized field. As a terminal degree holder, employers know that our students are well equipped to tactical complex projects at their organizations right away.
It is also important to mention that the degree program and the Project Management Center of Excellence was designed and supported by an advisory committee of industry leaders in project management. These industry leaders included vice presidents, portfolio managers, IT executives, senior project managers, logistic officers and management consultants.

Bellevue University

You mentioned the Bellevue University Center for Project Management. Can you tell us more about it?
The Bellevue University Center for Project Management is helping to develop the next generation of project leaders, providing the resources and mindset for managing complex organizational projects on a global scale. The Center is dedicated to performing research and advocacy, and providing education with respect to the profession and education of project management. We partnered with eCornell (Cornell University), McGraw-Hill Education, PMI and other universities to provide our students with a unique portfolio of experiences, education and additional credentials. Students earning a MPM degree will also earn additional credentials in MS Project, Project Leadership and get access to McGraw-Hill’s PMP Prep labs to prepare for the PMP certification.

Learn more about the Project Management Center of Excellence: