Success Stories
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Photo credit: Lorena De Benedittis
November 23, 2019 |
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Creativity and Problem-Solving Combine in Project Management Career

Marie Spark wanted to be a journalist. Then she discovered that what she loved doing—creative problem-solving and coordinating logistics—was project management.

By Jenny McKeel
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Lecturer and Project Management program director Marie Spark loves preparing students for an industry experiencing surging growth. By 2020, it’s anticipated that 11 million project management jobs will be added by the United States and its 10 major trading partners. Marie’s classes emphasize hands-on, situational application of theory. The technical knowledge and advanced communication skills students gain makes all the difference on-the-job.

Marie’s own professional path started at UC Berkeley, where she majored in Rhetoric and minored in French. She couldn’t have predicted the career that followed. As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

From NPR to MBA

After discovering a passion for journalism, Marie landed an internship with NPR that, she later realized, was her first project management role. She loved tracking down information and coordinating studio interviews, but decided against a career in radio where job prospects were low.

Participants at the Project Management Institute's Leadership Institute Meeting
Project managers at the Leadership Institute Meeting
Project managers from around the world gather at the Leadership Institute Meeting

At the Leadership Institute Meeting, participants promote their local project management communities

Participants commemorate PMI's 50th anniversary

Project managers collaborate at the Leadership Institute Meeting

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She went back to school for her MBA and discovered the project management field—a mix of creative problem-solving and detail orientation that was an immediate fit. She took a consulting position with IBM and learned IT project management on-the-job before moving to Bank of America in IT project management.

“My strengths,” said Marie, “are that I dive into learning things and I’m not afraid to ask questions. I’m good at understanding complex concepts and explaining them. That’s a lot of what it takes to be a project manager.”

Six Sigma Certification

At Bank of America, Marie received Black Belt certification in Six Sigma, a set of tools for improving processes, products, and services. She also coached people pursuing Green Belt certification. When Marie was laid off from B of A, she seized the opportunity for growth and realized coaching others was what she loved most.

“I volunteered with the Project Management Institute’s San Francisco chapter in a leadership role—an amazing opportunity,” said Marie. “Through contacts I eventually was offered a teaching position at Golden Gate University. There’s tremendous value in volunteering with professional organizations and putting yourself out there because you never know where things will end up.”

Leadership and Problem-Solving Skills

Today, Marie equips students with crucial leadership and problem-solving skills like negotiation, motivation, and conflict resolution.

“There used to be the idea that project management is administrative overhead,” said Marie. “Today, companies are realizing that project management provides a structure that gives you the freedom to create change. Any business you can think of is going through massive transformation and in order to change effectively you need to understand how to manage projects. That’s why it’s exciting to be in project management.”

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Our Student Government Association is hosting an online student forum this Friday at 6pm! As we navigate through these uncertain times, this will be an incredible opportunity to learn from each other and have your questions answered! RSVP and submit questions: tinyurl.com/SGAForum20 ... See MoreSee Less

Our Student Government Association is hosting an online student forum this Friday at 6pm! As we navigate through these uncertain times, this will be an incredible opportunity to learn from each other and have your questions answered! RSVP and submit questions: tinyurl.com/SGAForum20
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Students: President Fike announced today that classes will continue all online through the summer term. Deans will be hosting webinars to answer questions. See your email for details about those. And remember, you can always stay up-to-date with our special coronavirus web site here: newsroom.ggu.edu/coronavirus/main/

Dear GGU Students,

I hope that you are doing well and staying healthy. I know that many of you are struggling to balance all of your responsibilities and determine what the next few weeks and months will look like. While we all adjust to the changing nature of our work, school, and everyday lives, I wanted to provide you with information about the Summer term, beginning May 10th, at Golden Gate University that will hopefully help you plan your educational path.

In order to provide some certainty during the ongoing public health crisis, we have made the decision to convert our summer in-person classes to distance learning in the business schools and undergraduate program. The classes will remain in these formats for the entire summer 2020 term.

Courses listed as offered in-person (SF) will primarily be delivered via Zoom technology, and students will meet at the same time each week with their class.

Courses listed as cyber courses will continue to be delivered via the eLearning platform in an asynchronous format. Students can log in when they want throughout the week to participate in course materials.

Hybrid, Web Conference and Mixed Mode courses will be delivered using a combination of Zoom and eLearning platforms, with some class sessions requiring online attendance at a specified time and date.

Students who are receiving veteran’s BAH benefits must be registered for at least one in-person, hybrid or mixed mode course at all times throughout the entire trimester (even though these courses will be converted to online mode due to the public health crisis) in order to meet the requirements for SF BAH residency for that trimester.

International students in F-1 status must continue to enroll full-time with at least two in-person courses (that will be converted to online) unless authorized for a reduced course load.

Our current understanding is that distance learning will have limited impact on the benefits or visa status of our veteran and international students, respectively, if you follow the guidelines described above. However, if you have questions about the implications of continued distance learning on your BAH or visa status, please follow up with us so that we can address your concerns.

Veterans – email VA@ggu.edu
International Students – email uac@ggu.edu
For questions about how continued distance learning might affect your financial aid, email finaid@ggu.edu.

We know that many of you came to GGU to increase the career opportunities available to you, and we recognize that you and other students have had to adapt suddenly to the current circumstances. This situation has affected colleges and universities in the U.S. and throughout the world. You have received messages from Vice President for Academic Affairs Barbara Karlin about our recent changes in grading policies during this unusual time. We want to continue to partner with you to achieve your educational and career goals. Please let us know how we can further support your success.

Thank you,

David J. Fike
President
Golden Gate University
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Our Student Government Association is hosting an online student forum on Friday, April 10 @ 6pm. As we navigate through these uncertain times, this will be an incredible opportunity to learn from each other and have your questions answered! RSVP and submit questions: tinyurl.com/SGAForum20 ... See MoreSee Less

Our Student Government Association is hosting an online student forum on Friday, April 10 @ 6pm. As we navigate through these uncertain times, this will be an incredible opportunity to learn from each other and have your questions answered! RSVP and submit questions: tinyurl.com/SGAForum20

We know that this is a difficult time for everyone and we are here for you. Want to chat about integrating aspects of your life into your home environment, maintaining the job search, staying motivated at work? Make an appointment with a career consultant on GGU Careers. We are still providing appointments via Zoom or phone. ... See MoreSee Less

We know that this is a difficult time for everyone and we are here for you. Want to chat about integrating aspects of your life into your home environment, maintaining the job search, staying motivated at work?  Make an appointment with a career consultant on GGU Careers. We are still providing appointments via Zoom or phone.
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