This PROM night at DC ‘is really interesting’

Durham College project management student Kathryn Stewart was her team's active project manager. Photo credit: Jackie Graves

When many college and university students graduate, it can be the end of their education before entering the workforce.

However, for students in Durham College’s (DC) Project Management post-graduate program (PROM), it is only the beginning.

PROM teaches students how to manage projects for a wide range of industries from construction, health services and law. Just recently, the program hosted a symposium in the Student Services Building which allowed students to meet and network with industry professionals.

The catch? The students had to plan the event themselves as part of their applications of project management course.

Students were broken up into teams to manage a project – with one team organizing the symposium. They’re charged with managing resources, including budgeting and scheduling.

Kathryn Stewart, a PROM student, was the active project manager for the group which hosted the symposium. She was charged with leading a team of 11 students as they created the event from start to finish.

Before attending Durham, Stewart earned a bachelor of arts in communication and digital media studies at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT). This led her to work for the university’s project management and event planning department – sparking her interest in the DC program.

“I like seeing how all different aspects of a project come together,” says Stewart. “You get everything from scheduling, resources, how you procure contracts – watching all of that come together to make a final product is really interesting.”

As part of her project, Stewart wrote a news release to have DC and UOIT’s the Chronicle cover the event to gain publicity.

“Originally, we were talking with our sponsor,” she says. “She mentioned the Chronicle was a good way to reach the students.”

The symposium project began in 2013 on a much smaller scale, only including breakfast and a single guest speaker, according to program coordinator Sylvie Edwards. From the beginning, the symposium has been sponsored by the Philadelphia-based Project Management Institute.

PMI has more than 300 chapters around the world, including 18 in Canada – one in Durham Region.

“The first couple of years they would give us pens and bags and leaflet information, that kind of stuff,” says Edwards. “Over the years, it’s kind of moved a little bit – now they give us money.”

The money goes to supplying guests with food, gift bags for experts, water and raffles.

According to Edwards, every industry will have the need to launch a project to expand its business, emphasizing the need for project managers.

Edwards says experts report by 2020 more than seven million project managers will be needed.

“It’s a big, growing field,” she says.

Outside of teaching students how to plan and execute an event, the symposium also provides an opportunity to talk to industry professionals and learn what’s needed to be successful in the workplace.

One of the experts, Ryan Smith, director of Canadian operations at Modus Strategic Solutions Inc., says the project is a good way for students to start making connections.

“Building and developing relationships is such a critical part of project management,” says Smith. “It’s another side of the coin they may not think about. I hope they’re able to take something away from that.”

This year, the symposium had a turnout of 78 people consisting primarily of students but also including five faculty and 16 experts. The first time the symposium was held 27 people attended.

Edwards says she feels PROM isn’t as well-known as other programs at DC and hopes more grads will get involved.

She says she plans to set this into motion by opening the symposium to the entire college, possibly as early as 2020, to reach students who may be interested in the program.

“We want to open this up,” says Edwards.