Alumni Spotlights
MS Project Management student
June 22, 2020 |

From Italy to San Francisco, Graduate Embraces the Unknown

Lorena De Benedittis is the Outstanding Student Award winner for the MS in Project Management. Helping others has given her the drive she needs to realize her ambitions.

By Jenny McKeel

It may not have happened that quickly, but Lorena De Benedittis’ leap from design to project management shows the power of self-determination.

Lorena, MS Project Management ’20, never wanted to come to the United States. But, after graduating from a top European university for industrial design, she arrived in San Francisco for a 6-month internship, and San Francisco stole her heart.

“I loved the diversity of San Francisco,” reflected Lorena. “And if you are really good at something, you have opportunities for success. Here, I could decide who I want to be. I decided to work as hard as I can to learn English and start from zero.”

New Beginnings in San Francisco

Starting anew in her 30s wasn’t easy. After soul-searching, Lorena decided to switch careers from design to project management with the help of Golden Gate University.

“When you move from one country to another, you have the chance to reinvent yourself,” said Lorena. “I asked myself, am I truly devoted to my design career? I discovered I wanted to be a project manager.”

Navigating the MS in Project Management

At GGU, Lorena navigated new academic expectations in a second language along with accelerated courses and unfamiliar concepts like “open-book quizzes.”

“It was hard at the beginning,” Lorena recalled. “Just to get the place you were when you left your country is a huge effort.”

But at an event hosted by the Project Management Club, she drew inspiration from an alumna presentation.

“This alumna gave an amazing speech about how the Project Management Club and the Project Management Institute helped her get a job working for the city of San Francisco. I thought, wow, in one year, I want to be her. I will be proactive and reach my goal.”

Hard Work Pays Off

Lorena has done just that. In April, she graduated from GGU with an impressive string of achievements behind her. In addition to winning the Outstanding Student Award for the Project Management program, she’s been awarded the 2019 American Society for Quality (ASQ) Scholarship and the Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship for 2019-2020.

As the VP of Marketing for the Student Government Association, Lorena created a process for marketing student events, elevating the design of all materials. She also spearheaded events that create a welcoming community for students like her who are looking to connect with others.

“I like to work in student government because I have the opportunity to serve as the voice of students. I’m good when I’m advocating for others,” said Lorena.

GGU’s Project Management Club

Through the Project Management Club, Lorena connected with the San Francisco chapter of the Project Management Institute and served as the volunteer Director of Marketing for PMI SF.

“The PMI chapter has 3,000 members, a several hundred thousand dollar operating budget, and it runs many events per year. It’s an unpaid professional job,” said Marie Spark, Project Management Program Director. “It’s a huge commitment she took on.”

Together, Marie Spark and Lorena created an innovative partnership between the PM Club and PMI, SF, to connect students to opportunities available through PMI, SF. It’s all part of a program called Next Generation Leader, an initiative to promote new leadership within PMI. As PMI’s Marketing Director, Lorena built a team of eight volunteers and created a set of tools for marketing events that would attract students and meet the needs of the PMI organization.

“Lorena has a passion for project management and she’s out there thinking, how can we create events that are fun for students and also professionally oriented,” said Marie Spark.

Project Management Institute, San Francisco

Lorena led marketing campaigns for PMI workshops and events, including the Member Appreciation Day event and a large regional leadership conference called Region 7. For her efforts leading the Region 7 Conference, she was named Star Volunteer by PMI, SF. And, recently, she was named Director at Large on the PMI, SF Board of Directors.

“It’s fun,” commented Lorena. “I like to use my creativity and organizational skills to manage events. Attending these events has helped me connect with professionals in the field. Some students are introverted or may have recently arrived here from their home country. If I have the power to help other people make professional connections, I want to use it.”

Lorena’s specialty is spinning a frustrating challenge into a win-win. After attending sparsely attended networking events, Lorena decided to throw a holiday party that would be memorably fun and well-attended while offering valuable networking opportunities. She leveraged PMI, SF and the PM Club to host the party jointly to save on costs. The party was held at GGU, making it accessible to students but included  students and professionals. She managed catering, decorations, and activities including karaoke and an ugly holiday sweater contest. Over 100 people attended the popular event.

GGU Student and Employee

In August 2019, Lorena accepted a position in GGU’s Office of Strategic Communication and Marketing. Drawing upon her design talents, she created a modern design for GGU’s newsroom and various marketing materials. Leveraging her project management training, she serves as a project manager and has spearheaded implementation of Agile project management techniques to improve team communication in the office and while staff are working remotely during the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We all have ups and downs,” said Lorena, reflecting on her GGU journey. “There are days when I think I’ve taken on too much. But I’ve learned to go after my happiness. Every step you take is the beginning of something big. Magically, one day you turn around and realize that you are the dream you were dreaming about. I believe in holding a vision of what you want and going for it.”

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