Five Grand Valley students placed first in The Project 2012, a Project Management Institute collegiate competition involving six Michigan colleges and universities. The first place prize was $5,000. The students, Matt McNamara, Stephen Williams, Iwona Gruszka and Eric Baumgarten, competed against students from Aquinas, Davenport, Kalamazoo College, Michigan Tech and University of Phoenix.
Students had to develop project plans required for an organization to become benefit certified. The competition included delivering a project scope statement and charter, completing a timeline and budget, and developing a financial plan and power point presentation.
“We were so excited to win after all the long hours we put it,” said Baumgarten. “The other teams were familiar with project management but this was our first exposure to this type of thing. This makes winning even more special.”
Gruszka said the team decided to work with a real company; the other teams used hypothetical situations. “We worked with Irwin Seating in Grand Rapids,” she said. “We were able to learn valuable information from company officials about the best way to implement sustainable initiatives. Our meetings were at 6 a.m., but it was worth it.”
Team mentor Benjamin Todd, a project management specialist from Amway, said the Grand Valley team was impressive. “The students were very well prepared. They showed critical thinking skills and excellent research and presentation skills,” he said. “They challenged each other ahead of time and knew the answer to every question they were asked.”
Each school had to name at least one “champion” from its faculty to make sure the students had all the resources needed to compete effectively. Grand Valley co-champions were Jaideep Motwani, professor and chair of the Management Department; Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for Health; and Joshua Gerlick, adjunct professor of business.
“Our team is unique because not all of the students are business majors,” said Motwani. “They come from diverse backgrounds. Eric is a history major and Iwona is studying public administration.”
The team faced an impressive panel of judges: Tony Johnson, president of Crosswind Project Management; Fred Keller, chairman and CEO of Cascade Engineering; James Mitchell, chair of Mitchell Intellectual Property Law; Dick Posthumus, senior advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder; Carole Valade, editor of Grand Rapids Business Journal and Gemini Publications; and Matthew Van Vranken, executive vice president of Spectrum Health Delivery System.