Written by: Sarah Araldi-Brondolo, Ruta Basijokaite, Laura Streib, McKenzie Brannon, and Dan Wang
Project management is the practice of planning and tracking the execution of a project to ensure goals are met. It allows scientific research to stay on track, within budget, and meet a reasonable deadline. The four basic components of project management are: 1) set goals and chart progress, 2) break down tasks and set deadlines, 3) choose and implement specific strategies, and 4) monitor, adjust, and problem-solve.
EMPOWER trainees got to practice project management through planning a field course for undergraduate students. First, students completed a personality assessment and were grouped with colleagues that shared their project management styles. EMPOWER fellows were given a strict budget, but were given freedom to design the course however they chose. Students designed a variety of courses, some making the budget conscious choice to stay close to home and others going more far afield. So students could practice risk management, halfway through planning the course, each group was delivered a unique wild-card. Trainees had to deal with last minute mishaps like a reduced budget, broken equipment, and bureaucratic hold ups.. EMPOWER trainees proposed their field courses in five minutes pitches, to a panel of judges with years of project management experience: Annie Pennella (PM), Dr. Christa Kelleher, and Dr. Charles Driscoll.
There were a range of field course project managed and proposed, including:
- Studying the geology and ecology of national parks in the western U.S.
- Testing the feasibility of new small scale water treatment technology in water-limited communities in northeast Africa.
- Learning apiary science in the mid-west and investigating its connection to pesticide use in agricultural systems.
- Studying the geology and history of Lake Ontario.
This activity introduced EMPOWER fellows to the basics of project management, gave them hands on experience, and gave them resources for project management tools they can use in the future.