Two from ACC-RI graduate from Naval Postgraduate School
January 30, 2014
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Two Army Contracting Command-Rock Island employees received their Master of Science degree in program management diplomas from the Naval Postgraduate School of Business and Public Policy Jan. 23.
Beginning the program in May 2011, Marcia Larssen and Angela Calhoun found the program to be a lesson in patience and persistence.
Larssen, a recently-promoted procuring contracting officer, and Calhoun, a contract specialist, were interested in the school's master's degree in contract management but the program was canceled that semester due to lack of participants. After looking into the program management curriculum and seeking out advice from ACC-RI leadership, both decided to enroll in the program management course.
Larssen and Calhoun opted to participate in a two-year distance learning program instead of the resident program, so they could still manage their contracting workload. The virtual classroom provides a variety of courses for government students worldwide.
"All the courses had the same lecture hours, but each had different time constraints depending on labs and study time," said Calhoun. "Some courses were quite time consuming with all the required and recommended reading and assignments, while others were not. Also some of the courses were group work and others were individual."
Concurrent to working on coursework, students had to complete a project, similar to a thesis. Students could work individually or team up to complete their project. Larssen and Calhoun decided to work together on their course project: "Implications and Constraints of Fiscal Law in Contingency Environments". They worked with two ACC-RI leaders who served as advisors throughout the course project.
Coursework and the project aside, graduation from the program proved to be an extensive process in itself.
While commencement ceremonies are typically the final step in degree attainment, such is not the case at the NPS. At the NPS, once coursework is complete, students are assigned to a particular commencement exercise, regardless whether the course project is complete or not.
Larssen and Calhoun completed their coursework, but needed an extension to complete their course project. At the NPS, extensions are commonplace. Calhoun said out of their 25 classmates, only one or two people finished their projects without an extension.
Though they were given a year extension on their project, they completed it in August 2013, which set the nomination for graduation into motion.
"Our project was approved on Aug. 28, and the next commencement exercise was held Sept. 27, so that was the class that we were nominated to graduate with," said Calhoun. "It started the timeline to receive our official diplomas."
Calhoun said completing this program gave her a good base for what her customers do on a daily basis at the program level.
"This experience has greatly increased my ability to understand and relate to them on another level," said Calhoun. "I also feel I have been able to gain some level of respect from program managers, that can show them I really do understand to a certain extent, what they are doing and why."
Larssen said her biggest take away is a greater appreciation of all of the work that goes into government programs.
"Coming from private industry four years ago, I had experiences participating on programs and projects from a corporate level where we constantly juggled scope, costs and time," said Larssen. "I think that this program allowed me to understand, from the government's perspective, the processes within a government program. I could see how my contracting position fits into the government programs' big picture."