Master’s in Project Management: Meet Your Program Director


Karen RJ White M.S., PMP, PMI Fellow

With more than twenty years of experience that spans the information technology, health care, and insurance industries, Karen RJ White joins the college as the new director of the M.S. in Project Management. In this role, Karen will advise project management students, support faculty, develop courses, and serve as a senior lecturer.

Meet Your Instructor

How did you first get involved in project management?

My career started in computer programming. After 10 years of learning new languages and writing code, I found that I much preferred working in a leadership role, supporting teams, and helping them achieve their goals. That’s when I formally became a project manager within IT departments, which in turn led to project management consulting within many industries and professions, not just IT.

When did you start teaching college courses?

About mid-way through my career, I decided to take a year-long sabbatical to focus on volunteer work and map out the next phase. During this time, I got involved with several local organizations, continued to speak at industry conferences, and started teaching. I discovered a passion for teaching and advising. Since then, I’ve been an adjunct at several institutions, teaching at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

What academic background best prepares students for the M.S. in Project Management program?

A solid undergraduate degree, either technical or managerial, is helpful so the student has a foundation upon which to expand. I also look for students who are able to demonstrate some level of team leadership, either from personal or professional experiences. These can range from completion of the military’s various leadership academies to leading a sports team to running a volunteer committee, and more.

What skills and qualities are important as you grow your career in project management?

You need to learn to be adaptive, take feedback, deal with setbacks (when they do occur), and understand how to guide the team forward. This is not a job where everything will be in your control, so demonstrate that you’re dependable and focused on the group’s achievement to build trust with your project team.

What career advice do you have for aspiring project managers?

Build your educational foundation, commit to earning the right industry certificates and dive in! The best way to become an effective project manager is to have the courage to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out perfectly. Then, learn from the experience and go on to achieve success in another effort.

Are you active in any community or professional organizations?

One volunteer activity that has been a constant on my path is PMI (Project Management Institute), the world’s leading project management organization. In particular, leading their work to establish a global Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for the profession. I’m also serving on the Board of Directors for the Center of Health and Learning in Brattleboro, Vermont.

How do you spend your personal time?

I am also a student, so my spare time is spent working on my dissertation and finishing up my degree coursework. When I do have downtime, my husband and I love to travel internationally!

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