MSc Project Management students charity success

Date: 10 May 2017



Last Christmas, 13 study teams across the UCD Smurfit School MSc in Project Management were assigned a project. By the end of April, they had to choose a charity, engage with them, raise funds and/or awareness, use AGILE techniques to run the project, and document the process.

Hear from Joe Houghton - Lecturer in Project Management Tools and Techniques

Last week in their final class of the semester, we had the presentations of their achievements, and I was – as always – amazed at what the students had accomplished. Suicidal people have been helped by one team’s efforts. Children at risk have been funded for regular meals, families of hospitalized toddlers supported, cancer patients helped. Homeless will be helped off the streets because of our student’s work, and families with terminally ill members supported. The students ran walks and quizzes, brought some of Ireland’s top musicians together for a concert, abseiled down cliffs, completed strenuous physical challenges, wined and dined corporate guests, organized movie and comedy nights – even a speed dating evening.

Over half the students come from outside Ireland, and many have little or no previous experience of engagement with charities. Several teams comprised all non-native English speakers, with no Irish network of friends or acquaintances. There was no seed money. They had other modules to complete, some had jobs, family commitments, work pressures. No matter - they were all expected to apply what they had learned in class, in the real world, and try to make a difference.

And they did.

MSc Project Management Class 2017 Project Management Charity Cheque

Learnings from this assignment are many and varied. “This experience will stay with us for a long time.... we would nearly be tempted to do it all again next year (nearly)!” “We also came to understand how international students can bring different ideas to a project … In a commercial context, this could be described as a competitive advantage.” “One of the team members also had a health problem which required hospitalization, and the team size was reduced to 4 during the last few crucial weeks. The team however beat all the odds and completed the documentation as planned.” Teams experienced conflict, doubt, setbacks and frustration. They did not all achieve everything they set out to, but they all learned that they could work together, plan and achieve, in some cases far more than they thought possible.

Several students have already planned further work with the charities they had partnered with, many others said that they had found this the most rewarding experience of their time at Smurfit.

Education is a wonderful thing. But so often we can become caught up in the process, the grading, student numbers, that we lose sight of why we are really here. To help those who come to us grow, to facilitate their development as contributing members of our society, with technical and social skills, awareness and motivation, to make us all better. My students showed me last week that they have learned, that they can “get things done”, using their learnings, their own skills, teamwork, persuasive talents and determination.

Oh, and they also raised over €42,000.

Charities helped by the student groups were: AWARE, De Paul, LauraLynn, St. Francis Hospice, Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Turn2Me, Project Managers Without Borders, FOCUS Ireland, PLAN, Barnardos, Irish Heart Foundation, SOS.

Watch the teams abseil for Temple Street here


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