Faculty Spotlight: Mary Beth McNicholas, M.B.A., P.M.P., C.S.M.

Mary Beth McNicholas teaches in the Project Management graduate program at Granite State College.  She has been on the faculty almost since the inception of the program.  She teaches both face-to-face and online courses.  Because Project Management is all about change, Mary Beth decided to give online teaching a try. She says, “I have always felt that I have to be able embrace change if I expect others to embrace the changes I am trying to implement in their jobs or processes.  The same holds true for me regarding teaching and learning.”

Mary Beth has over 25 years of project and program management experience in health care, insurance, manufacturing and professional services industries overseeing large, complex ERP application implementations, transformation and Merger and Acquisition programs. She holds an MBA (finance concentration) from Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio and holds certifications in both PMP and CSM (Certified Scrum Master).

Mary Beth’s Project Management teaching philosophy centers around her belief that PM is learned best using a hands-on approach where students experience the application of PM skills and techniques in the classroom or online course work.

Mary Beth has some interesting observations about online learners.  She finds that they are more apt to ask questions that they would not ask in person, questions that push their peers to think about the personal impact of their postings. She also loves online discussions because there are no interruptions, no disruptive multiple discussions going on.  There is far more civility and respectful behavior. She finds that the biggest challenge, though, is not being able to look directly at students to see if they understand.  “In teaching or mentoring, sometimes you have to say something three different ways before it connects for the student.  I feel that it is harder to do that online.” 

“In teaching or mentoring, sometimes you have to say something three different ways before it connects for the student. I feel that it is harder to do that online.”
This term Mary Beth has tried some new things in her class. One which worked especially well was using a webinar to introduce the concepts of Microsoft Project, a piece of software. She plans to continue using webinars in future terms because students have an opportunity to ask questions and get immediate answers.

 When asked to give advice to those thinking about teaching online, Mary Beth offered two important insights.  The first is cautionary – “Don’t underestimate the challenge and time management aspects of online teaching.  I first thought it would be easy to travel for my job and also teach online, but found that it takes a lot of self-structure and tenacity to stay on top of the coursework.” The second is reassuring. When asked what resources were the most useful she said that the staff and other faculty have helped her the most.

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