UNM, Sandia to develop first NM master’s program for project management

By Kerri Dufault

Friday, February 12, 2021

UNM's Craig White and Sandia's Scott Aeilts sign a memorandum of understanding
MANAGING PROJECTS WITH UNM — In this UNM file photo from a 2018 ceremony, Craig White, Dean of the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management, left, and Scott Aeilts, associate Labs director for Mission Services, sign a memorandum of understanding that pledges both institutions’ support for project management education and professional development. (Photo courtesy of UNM)

The University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management this fall will begin formally accepting applicants for the state’s first master’s degree program in project management, a critical component of the school’s memorandum of understanding with Sandia.

In mid-December, the New Mexico Higher Education Department provided final approval of the degree program, fulfilling a major goal of the 2-year-old agreement between UNM and Sandia that set out their joint plans for collaboration on project management education and professional development.

UNM will become one of only a handful of U.S. universities in the country to offer the project management master’s degree. 

“We appreciate UNM’s partnership and believe this will greatly benefit UNM, Sandia and the state,” said Krista Smith, Sandia director for project management.

“This is an extraordinary benefit for the Labs,” Krista said. “As a Federally Funded Research and Development Center, Sandia delivers essential science and technology to resolve the nation’s most challenging security issues. Because of the national security implications and use of taxpayer resources, it’s imperative that Sandia deliver on its mission on time and on budget. Formal project management provides the expertise and tools to accomplish this,” she said.

As the number and complexity of projects and product development efforts continue to grow, so does the critical need for highly skilled project management professionals, Krista said. Sandia currently employs nearly 500 project management professionals, and 58 percent of those are UNM graduates.

“When you look at the demand that came from the multiple nuclear deterrence modernization projects, strategic partnership projects and upcoming capital construction projects, it’s clear the need for project management is not going away,” said Tristan Walters, a Sandia manager in project management.

The degree program not only will help students enter the workforce with the foundation and analytical skills they need to succeed immediately, but it also provides a more direct path for students who want a project management career at Sandia or in other industries, he said.

“Sandia will have a great pipeline of students to recruit from,” Tristan said. “Additionally, it will save Sandia significant costs because the Labs will only need to provide program-specific training.”

Current students will be able to transfer credits from existing UNM project management courses toward the new degree.