Business students take third in project management competition

contact: Alyssa Gapske
| WMU News
Photo of the team with advisors.

The team placed third in WMU's first year participating in the competition.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A team of Western Michigan University business students placed third in the final four at the West Michigan Collegiate Project Management Competition, which included 15 teams from 11 universities.

Held through the West Michigan Chapter of the Project Management Institute, the competition topic, "Improving the Affordability of Higher Education in Michigan," tasked participants with applying their knowledge of the international standard, the PMBOK Guide—Project Management Body of Knowledge—to determine solutions for higher education affordability and to build a project plan to execute the solutions.

Long preparation

To prepare for the competition, WMU students worked throughout the semester and held regular meetings to study the PMBOK Guide, conduct research and devise solutions for a case that encompassed politics, Michigan's finances, technology and policies. Industry mentors Mark Malloy of Chaucer Consulting and Michael Rauch of Stryker Corporation, as well as Dr. Kuanchin Chen, professor of business information systems and the team's faculty advisor, assisted the students in preparation.

"We spent many hours helping students learn the PMBOK Guide, offering practical advice of standard-compliant project management practice and guiding them to compete," says Chen. "Students were able to have an experience that is based on a standard-compliant and industry-supported practice."

The final four teams of the competition were selected by a panel to present their proposals to four vice presidents and CEOs of companies at the final presentation. Each of the four teams' project plans were sent to Gov. Rick Snyder's office to be kept for reference.

Student selection

Students were selected from advanced computer information system courses, which emphasize the importance of the guide. Both WMU teams consisted of business students from a variety of majors, which Chen says worked to their advantage.

"One nice thing about our teams is that the competition promoted understanding across functional areas of business," says Chen. "At various points in the project, all members were asked and guided on questions regarding technology solutions, human resources management, budgeting, and promotion and marketing. We hope to attract more majors to the classes and competition next year."

Burhanuddin Saifuddin Plasticwala, a computer information systems major and member of the third place team, agrees with Chen about the group dynamics.

"Everyone in the team knew what their responsibilities were for each deliverable, and everyone aimed to become an expert in their own section," says Plasticwala. "There were some obstacles, as there often are within projects, but the project manager and team members motivated themselves and others and assisted with whatever was needed to help us succeed."

Team members

This is the first year that WMU has participated in the competition. The third place team included:

  • Amanda Ahler, an MBA student from Essexville.
  • Jeffrey Buckley, an integrated supply management major from Saint Clair Shores.
  • Emily Gilpin, an accountancy major from Three Rivers.
  • Janel Langley, a health information and informatics management major from Byron Center.
  • Burhanuddin Saifuddin Plasticwala, a computer information systems major from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.