WMU teams claim top two spots at project management competition

Contact: Samantha Hooker

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two five-member teams of Western Michigan University students placed first and second overall in THEProject competition hosted by the Western Michigan Chapter of Project Management Institute. The students placed in front of teams from Grand Valley State University, Michigan Technological University and Ferris State University. The team was led by Dr. Daneshvar Kakhki, assistant professor of business information systems.

Participants were asked to provide solutions for a real-life scenario in the form of a project plan; in this case, establishing a new school of project management at a university of their choice. The teams were given industry mentors with project management certifications, Matt Mills and Nancy Howk, both of Stryker. With their guidance, the finalists completed three rubrics and were judged on their use of proper project management techniques, quality of solutions and the ability to present their plan. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, project plan books were submitted and evaluated rather than in-person presentations.

Members of the winning team from WMU.

Katie Zaharion, team leader of the first-place team, explained their approach. “We had to research what it would actually take to open a new college at WMU,” she says. “To collect data, we had several meetings with Dr. Satish Deshpande, dean of the Haworth College of Business, and other executive leaders throughout campus. These meetings helped us learn the actual systems and protocols needed. In the end, all of our research and collaboration enabled our completed project plan book to receive an almost perfect score, which my team was really proud of.”

Team leader for the second-place group, Triston Evans, credits diversity as the key to his team’s success. “I believe there were many factors that contributed to our success but key among them was the team’s diverse backgrounds and our ability to quickly identify strengths and weaknesses of each team member in order to capitalize on our different skill sets.”

Kakhki knows that the lessons learned in preparing for the competition can be used in a much broader sense.

“Students made useful business connections, lifelong friends and colleagues, and became experienced in project management in a real-world scenario. They were able to develop their project management capabilities and improve their leadership and teamwork skills, which will serve them well in any professional position.”

The Academic Architects – first place

  • Katie Zaharion, graduate student, from Battle Creek
  • Mayuree Barik, graduate student, from New Delhi, India
  • Megan Loll, senior, from Plainwell
  • Ashwathy K.P. Balakrishnan, senior, from Selangor, Malaysia
  • Zachary McGriff, senior, from Portage

The Diverse Urbanites – second place

  • Triston Evans, graduate student, from Kalamazoo
  • Keerthanaa Nagamani, graduate student, from Ootacamund, India
  • Jessica Gianina Harsono, senior, from Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
  • Brian Andrew Susilo, senior, from Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia
  • Chon Wei Lyn, senior, from Subang Jaya, Malaysia

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