When Elina Thapa (MEng ’19) decided to begin her master’s program in Project Management in 2017, it was due, at least in some part, to an earthquake on the other side of the world.
In a remote area of Nepal, there had been a disastrous earthquake and one of Elina’s first jobs as a civil engineer was to implement a reconstruction project in its aftermath. “My work required me to oversee the construction of a large number of residential homes,” she said. “While there was a need for technical efficiency to reconstruct resilient homes, there was an equal, if not greater need, for resource management, time management, understanding stakeholder relations, and forming effective communication channels for social mobilization for the successful implementation of the project.” She realized that the bulk of the work she was doing to implement the project was simply trying to manage it. It was at that point she realized that she needed to improve her skills in this area.
Initially, she did not know there was a Project Management program at the University of Maryland (UMD) specifically designed for working professionals with a technical background. “An online search brought me to the project management coursework at UMD,” she said. “I knew I had to earn the degree in order to learn the skills that would be crucial for my professional development.”
One of the things that attracted her to UMD’s program was the fact that the Project Management degree is offered through the Department of Engineering, so the topics and discussions revolve around engineering projects. She also liked that courses can be taken either online or in person.
Her experiences in the program have been a critical part of her professional success. “It’s given me exposure to a number of opportunities,” she said. “As a student, I attended project management symposiums and PMI chapter meetings where I could learn directly from industry leaders and interact with them,” she said. “There were also career fairs which helped me land a number of critical interviews.” She was able to land a very beneficial internship opportunity through one of the career fairs. “Most of the employers I interviewed with seemed very interested in the courses I had taken in my program,” she said.
UMD’s curriculum places emphasis on team collaboration projects which Elina thought were extremely meaningful and useful. “We mostly worked on realistic projects,” she said. “After graduating with my Master of Engineering and going back to work, I found those assignments were very helpful.”
Professor Jocelyn Davis, Adjunct Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering was also particularly impactful in her academic career. “One of the first classes I took was Managing Project Teams, and Professor Davis was very influential to me,” Elina said. “While her course was designed to help us understand ourselves and our purpose in life better, Professor Davis was a great listener and a huge motivator. She encouraged us to set specific life goals and taught us how to go after them.”
During her second year in the program, Elina greatly benefited from working with Dr. Qingbin Cui, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, on two different research projects. “Dr. Cui’s research team was highly efficient and there was a lot for me to learn, not only about the projects but also about ways to work effectively on a team through team collaboration tools,” she said. “That was a huge platform for me.”
Now, Elina is a research engineer at Home Research Innovation Labs, which helps clients improve the quality, affordability and environmental performance of homes and home building projects. She conducts research and analysis for government and industry clients with a focus on advancing construction technology in the areas of energy efficiency, disaster resistance, durability, and green buildings.
“I work in projects all the time and almost all the organizations have their own projects that help them achieve their strategic goals,” she said. “Knowing that there are different kinds of projects and different ways to tackle each kind is a huge advantage when I go to work every day.”
“The Project Management program at UMD covers all aspects of project management from understanding the fundamentals of projects, cost control, sustainability, procurement, risks and even managing project teams, Elina stated. “Learning all this makes us better prepared in our professional life when we can understand and solve problems associated with them. Along with helping us understand the project, the program also educates us about ways to maximize our potential as a professional in a demanding environment.”
Earn your competitive advantage just like Elina Thalpa and many other UMD graduates. Apply for a Master of Engineering in Project Management (MEng) today.