Spotlight on Two Academic Programs

    Mark Murbach, a newly minted FM, is originally from Wheaton, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. He is twenty-two years old and a recent graduate of the Facility Planning & Management program at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT).

    Mark says he became interested in the FM field because of the "variety of work and responsibilities that fall under the facility management umbrella," not to mention that every day presents new challenges. He also cites an aspirational reason: facilities managers can have a profound, positive impact on those who occupy the facility.

    As part of his educational requirements at WIT, Mark participated in several co-ops, including stints at Boston College, Sun Life Financial, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

    Mark says each workplace was quite different, something that surprised him, at first. These differences, however, provided him with deep insights into the field.

    "Workplace culture definitely exists and becomes very apparent after working at a few different companies," Mark says. "Each had their own CMMS and building management systems as well as a variety of general operating procedures."

    One of his favorite experiences was at Radcliffe, his first co-op. Mark has fond memories of Radcliffe Day, the annual alumni event on campus. He says it was "truly a team effort to coordinate the installation of a 4,000-square foot tent in Radcliffe yard and escort alumni around campus with ages ranging up into the 90s. Overall, it was a memorable experience and one that reinforced that I was getting into something that I would love to make into my career."

    We love hearing about young people embarking on their FM careers, and since it's September, and school is officially back in session, we thought it would make sense to take a deeper look into the FM academic programs at WIT and another local institution known for its FM curriculum, Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

    Academic Evolution

    FM academic programs have had to reinvent themselves over the last decade, thanks to major technology advancements, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Not to mention, students need more options regarding how and when they pursue their education (e.g., online, part time, etc.).

    Deborah D. Wright, dean of the College of Professional and Continuing Education at WIT, says the school is committed to the "built environment" in general. "We have a certificate in facilities management. We have a bachelor's degree in facility management, and we have a master's degree in facility management," Wright explains. "So we are committed to the industry, and what it adds to the total build environment."

    One of the biggest shifts in the course curricula has been an increased focus on the financial aspects of facilities management as well as deeper dives into energy and sustainability. In addition, Wright says it's important to offer students who work options that allow them to continue working while learning new skills during their non-work time.

    Wright says, "And so we have started focusing on certificates that allow professionals to come back and get just a concentrated learning in different disciplines."

    For example, if someone has a project management degree, but they find they're doing more FM work, they could go to WIT and earn an FM certificate. Or vice versa, if someone has an FM degree and they're working in a different aspect of facilities management, they might want to get a project management certificate.

    WIT refers to this as "stackable credentials," and Wright adds that students are "getting the learning that they need to be more impactful and effective at their jobs."

    Formerly a non-credit certificate, the new certificate in facilities management is credit bearing as of the fall of 2018. Once completed, students can choose to transfer the credits from the six courses into the degree program. Or they can simply use the certificate program as a way to complement other degrees and experience. The program, which students take online, is designed for people who are already working, yet looking for a way to further their education.

    Even better? A recent partnership between Wentworth's College of Professional and Continuing Education (CPCE) and IFMA Boston provides a tuition discount program. Eligible members receive a 10% discount when they enroll in select hybrid and online courses, which include project management and construction in addition to facilities management.

    Wright says she's excited about WIT being IFMA Boston's "educational partner," adding, "We really are hoping to be instrumental in helping to better prepare people who are already out there if they want to come back for professional development. Or, on the front end, where they're looking for a career and they want to come and get their degree."

    Adjusting FM Curricula to Include New Skills and Areas of Study

    Todd Isherwood has an interesting perspective regarding FM education. He received his master's degree in facilities management from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 2011. Now, he works as the school's graduate outreach specialist. He's seen firsthand how the program and course curricula have evolved, including an increased focus on sustainability issues.

    Isherwood says, "Sustainability encompasses a broad range of topics in facilities management. I would describe it as developing and implementing strategies to operate building assets with the best social, environmental, and economical outcomes. The triple bottom line has been a big shift in facilities management in the last two decades."

    Teaching the long-term costs of operating buildings, particularly when it comes to the cost center for energy management, is something that Isherwood believes more and more FM programs will need to emphasize if they want to remain current and competitive.

    "It's a mixture of teaching the capital expense versus operational expense scenarios. I call it the cap-ex versus op-ex scenarios," Isherwood explains. "Those are becoming more and more relevant in the profession and it's being addressed in education—the graduate programs more so than anything else."

    As for other shifts on the horizon? Isherwood says big data and the Internet of Things offer new challenges and opportunities for FMs. He says FMs will need to think of themselves more and more as "systems thinkers."

    Isherwood says, "I believe that's the next big wave. Facilities management has kind of been thinking that way, but I think the pressure is on to be a systems thinker as related to the Internet of Things. How does one system impact another system when we begin to tweak those pieces? That's one big area that I think that facilities manager will need a deeper dive into skills."

    Isherwood adds that in addition to systems thinking, FMs will need to make sure they're skilled in how they manage the glut of information—and how they communicate information to others, especially in our online world.

    "A facilities manager's online presence is vital to communicating the right message at the right time whether it's email, text, company intranet, or social media, like Facebook," Isherwood says. "Human resource management and social interactions that build trust are skills facilities managers need to develop in today's society."

    Real-life Experience for the Win

    Both WIT and Massachusetts Maritime Academy require hands-on learning in the field in the form of co-ops and special projects. And while offering internships is an excellent way for veteran FMs to give back to the profession, the fact is internships are vital in students' understanding of the field.

    Nate Corbett is also a recent graduate of WIT's Facility Planning & Management program (he also acquired a minor in General Business). He participated in several co-ops as well, all of which provided him with rich insights, including the joys of the field—and its challenges. Not only that, but his experiences taught him that the FM field is a lot broader than he originally thought.

    Corbett explains, "When I worked at Sustainserv, a sustainability consulting company, I was surprised at just how much actually goes into the field of sustainability. I was always under the impression that it was just utilizing green energy and trying to be environmentally conscious. I never knew what Scopes 1&2 were or how to figure them out. Finding out about a company's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) gave me a new insight as to how companies are giving back to the community and their employees. This experience introduced me to an entirely different industry that aligns with my passion for being environmentally friendly."

    In addition, Corbett's experience at another internship brought the things he was learning in the classroom to life. "At UMass Memorial, I really found out what facility management is," Corbett says. "I was extremely lucky that my boss wanted me to learn everything and anything that I was curious about. I loved going out with technicians, exploring mechanical rooms, running small projects, labeling mechanical equipment, and understanding life safety systems. The responsibility given to me by my boss truly showed how much she trusted me."

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