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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Building on a Career with Continuing Education

This certificate graduate was at a turning point in her career and is using her education to become a leader in the facilities field.

Fall 2021

Erin Fitts, a Facilities Management certificate graduate, is a seasoned expert in her field. She currently serves as the Facilities, Retail, and Visitor Services Director for a large and successful retail business in Miami, Florida.

During her extensive career, Erin found herself becoming the problem solver. She experienced the difficulty of two directors moving on to new positions, and, she was asked, and had the opportunity, to take on many new roles during this transition.

“After we had two facilities directors leave within a short period of time, I was able to create a solution to repair our broken-down trams. Following their departure, I was tasked with additional responsibilities, and eventually was promoted to lead the entire facilities department.”

Impressively, Erin has quite a bit of experience under her belt with purchasing, contracts, and relationship building with contractors and vendors — she has the natural instincts to supervise the facilities process efficiently and effectively.

Using continuing education to evolve and revolutionize an industry.

Considering these new responsibilities, Erin had the desire to use continuing education to further develop her skills. And so began her pursuit to find the right fit in terms of new training, vetting several different university-level certificate programs during her search. “I felt like I did not have the technical knowledge of maintenance, repairs, and professional standards that are necessary for job performance. That is when I decided that I needed to upscale my skills and search for a program that would give me the education that would help me execute my job to the best of my ability.”

Erin selected UCI as her program of choice. “What drew me to the UCI program was the extensive and industry-relevant subject matter and the thought-leadership of the course instructors. And importantly, the program was designed to help me pass the Certified Facilities Management (CFM) exam, which I believe is critical for my career today and in the future.”

UCI’s completely online format meant that Erin had the convenience to design her own educational path, while still accommodating the time constraints of her many professional and personal aspirations. “The virtual environment allowed me to go at my own pace. I was able to take one course per quarter so that I also could remain focused on work and family obligations.”

Erin was impressed by the challenging curriculum and felt that she completed the program with a solid understanding of the foundational aspects of facilities management. “Now I have a more well-rounded understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Importantly, I know what questions to ask so that I can scope out and strategically design and deliver innovative solutions that work. As an upcoming leader, I also maintain a good understanding of capital budgets and financial accounting.”

“What drew me to the UCI program was the extensive and industry-relevant subject matter and the thought-leadership of the course instructors.” Erin Fitts, Facilities Management
Certificate Graduate

The upside of a fully online certificate program.

Continuing education plays a vital role during our careers and in fact, over a lifetime. Our goal at UCI is to unveil new opportunities and open new doors for our students. Many students might perceive that an online program format may not provide the same networking opportunities as that of a face-to-face program. The fact is that online courses are just as robust and still result in meaningful connections with peers — and based on Erin’s experience, she agrees.

“I felt that the online courses provided relationship and network opportunities because our instructors required weekly discussions. In most classes, we had to post answers to questions and then respond to at least two other comments. And I found that many of the same students followed me through several of the classes, and it was always nice to see a familiar name posting discussion comments. The Project Management Essentials for Facilities Professionals course provided the most peer interactions because we were assigned group work almost every week. My team chose to meet on Zoom, which was a nice opportunity to meet and interact with some of the students in the class. During one Zoom session, we were all having a difficult time with a specific question, and the group leader asked the instructor if he could join the Zoom call, which he did. That was especially valuable from my perspective because the instructor was very knowledgeable and gave us fantastic information.”

The great news for Erin, and all facilities management professionals, is that the industry is growing at a rapid rate. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for facilities management professionals is still very significant. In fact, the job market is expected to grow by over 11% through 2028, according to the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

Upon completion of the program, Erin’s commitment to the facilities management industry grew even stronger. “I do have a college degree, but since it’s in a completely unrelated field, I think the addition of my certificate completion on my resume proves to future employers that I am serious about working and growing as a leader in the industry.”

Learn more about the Facilities Management Certificate Program.