The inaugural graduates of USC Bovard College’s Master of Science in Project Management program celebrated commencement, ready to advance their careers in one of the world’s fastest growing fields. While they pursued their online studies from across the nation, most of the graduating class journeyed to USC for the ceremony to connect in person with those they had gotten to know so well over their computers, tablets and other devices.
“You can see the professor and your classmates and interact just as you would in a regular classroom,” says Katherine Delong, a learning management system administrator at Cisco Meraki. “I was surprised that an online program could provide such a strong sense of community. I have made many lifelong friends.”
The program blends flexibility with rigorous, relevant curriculum designed by project management leaders. In addition, it carries all the advantages of an advanced degree from a top-20 university that is also ranked fifth among the best colleges for military veterans by U.S. News & World Report.
“Every single class I took directly applied to something I have done or am going to start to do within project management,” says Sirine Singsanong Bunkua, a project manager at Walt Disney Imagineering. “I have been able to apply every single thing I learned.”
In addition to core project management principles, students explore the full spectrum of the field’s concepts and methodologies — including portfolio and program management, technical project delivery, Agile and change management. The program blends lectures with discussions and breakout sessions to encourage collaboration.
Paul Webster, a project manager at Epsilon, served as the class flag bearer. He originally considered applying for an MBA but decided the MS would better suit his goals. “Throughout the program, I saw my capability and confidence rise significantly,” he says. “No matter where my career heads — whether that be project, product or program management — I know I will be well equipped for success because of this program.”
Even though he already held certification as a project management professional (PMP), Gregory Brown wanted to add USC’s MS in Project Management to qualifications that also include an MBA and professional engineering license. “This is much bigger than the PMP I hold,” he says.
Brown, a senior project manager at A3 Ventures, also lauds the comprehensive curriculum and supportive faculty. For example, he says, “One time I needed help with some concepts from my requirements elicitation and business analysis class to use on a new project at work. The professor set up a Zoom session and walked me through how I could approach the problem.”
Delong agrees, adding, “The faculty were available to help whenever needed and were always quick to reply to my questions. To learn from industry experts is amazing.”
To further meet the scheduling needs of busy professionals, the program is offered in both a one-year and two-year track. At 24 units, the MS in Project Management can be completed in just 12 months for students in the one-year track. No GRE is required, and students have their choice of three enrollment dates each year.
“This is a great program for anyone working full time,” says Kathryn Jackson, director of systems projects at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “The live sessions are only 90 minutes, allowing you time in the evening to study after class.”
While many of program’s graduates were already working in the field, USC’s program also provides a firm foundation for those who want to start their careers in project management. “This is a great way to get exposure,” notes Aamir Vaid, a portfolio scheduling manager at Genentech. “You really hit all of the main aspects, theory and applied methodology.”
Other companies employing the diverse members of the inaugural class of graduates include Boeing, Cisco, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Fender Musical Instruments and Sempra International. “You learn a lot from your classmates, who come from different backgrounds,” Bunkua says.
The Master in Project Management is offered through USC Bovard College, an academic unit within the University of Southern California. Its online graduate programs, which also include an MS in Human Resource Management and an MS in Criminal Justice, aim to develop leaders who can meet the demands of the fast-paced global economy.
USC Bovard College is named for Emma Bovard, one of USC’s first students and an early advocate for equal educational opportunities. To learn more about the Master of Science in Project Management program, visit www.bovardcollege.usc.edu/PM