new dining hall.JPG (copy)

After the 2017-18 school year, Phillips Hall — which contained PC Dukes and Top Dog — was demolished. Since then, Dukes Dining was constructed and opened this fall. Here's a look into the work behind the project.

All projects have to come to an end, and usually there are deadlines to complete those tasks.

Project management refers not to the typical daily routine one goes through each day but to assignments that are unique and require a special team that doesn’t usually work together to complete. Essentially, project management is the skill to organize and execute project requirements.

These projects can range from developing computer software that help websites run faster, designing construction blueprints for buildings and bridges for people to use, creating new policies and procedures to make business more effective and much more. In each case, these projects can have an influential impact on how people work and live.

How are projects executed?

Project managers typically go through five stages in order to complete a project. 

  1. Initiation: This is the stage where projects are birthed. It’s where the managers determine if the project has value and if it’s feasible to complete. If the project is seen to be both valuable and feasible, it’s then assigned to a team or office.  

  2. Planning: This is the stage where the project is outlined. The time restraints, resources, budget, cost, procuring finances and possible risks are all addressed in this stage of the process.     

  3. Execution: This is the phase where actual project managing happens. Buildings are built, code is logged into a computer and executives write and execute future policies. Execution is strongly dependent on the planning stage because it derives from those previous efforts.  

  4. Monitoring and control: This stage is normally seen while the execution stage is in progress. To ensure what was guaranteed to either the buyer or company, teams must monitor and control throughout the execution to ensure the project moves ahead smoothly.  

  5. Closure: After the project is completed and the final product is handed over to the buyer or company, the team will go over the documents and blueprints to see if there are any adjustments that can be tweaked for future reference. This can help future projects operate smoothly and quickly. 

Project management example: Dukes Dining at JMU

Here’s how the recently constructed $25.1 million Dukes Dining construction project fits in these stages.

  1. Initiation: Before starting construction on Dukes Dining, JMU executives and project managers had to come together and determine the value of the project’s worth and feasibility. JMU decided what team it wanted to hire for the project. In this case WM Jordan was hired to build the new Dukes building.

  2. Planning: Once it determined the building was feasible and well-admired by the student population, the project management team was able to start planning the budget, resources and for possible risk.

  3. Execution: This is when the hammer met the nail and WM Jordan began physically working on the project. The structure was framed, steel beams were being put into place, walls were plastered and more.  

  4. Monitoring and control: Project engineers, managers and superintendents were working each day to ensure that the project was meeting deadlines.They also were monitoring the resources to ensure they were not spending too much or too little. 

  5. Closure: Once WM Jordan has completed the project, it will hand the finished product to JMU. It’ll then review the project plans and make any adjustments to help run future projects more smoothly. 

How does one become a project manager?

If project management sounds intriguing, it’s best to start by getting an education. A bachelor’s degree in business management, business marketing, engineering or computer science is a great way to get your feet planted in pursuing project management, depending on what type of projects one would want to work on. 

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After earning your bachelor’s degree it's time to look into what kind of certification you want to pursue. There are two main certificates that project managers can earn. 

The first certificate is the Certified Associates Project Manager (CAPM), which is for project managers with little to no experience in the field. The second is the Project Management Professional (PMP), which is designed for those who have at least 4,500 hours of related work experience and related education degrees. 

Someone that’s early in their career might be interested in becoming a project manager right away, so they could pursue the CAPM until they qualify for the PMP. Those who already have informal experience working in project management may feel that they’re ready to take the exam for their PMP right away. 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers training and educational courses through registered education providers like James Madison University around the world that will qualify and prepare those who want to either take the CAPM or PMP. 

Project manager career path

Those interested in project management may follow a path like this.

  1. Project coordinator: This the entry level position for a project manager. They assist the project manager in handling paperwork, scheduling meetings, keeping track with timelines and budget. 

  2. Project scheduler: This is a more technical position that involves creating and planning the project’s schedule. Their job is to monitor organizational resources and ensure the project is on task.

  3. Assistant project manager: This team member works closely with the project manager to identify the needs of the buyer or client, establish budgets, manage the resources and organize the project.  

  4. Project manager: The project manager is the lead role. They are in charge of planning, organizing, executing, directing and reporting on projects for clients or stakeholders.

  5. Senior project manager: With years of experience and projects under one's belt. A project manager can be prompted to more complex projects with larger portfolios.

Final thought 

Anyone that’s interested in tackling new innovative software, building facilities for schools or companies, or drafting plans for policies and procedures should consider looking into a career that’s related to project management. 

Being a project manager means that you are on the forefront of innovation, knowledge and success because of the creative products that are birthed from an idea or thought.  

Landon Birsch is a senior communication studies major. Contact Landon at birsch@dukes.jmu.edu.