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DCE Magazine

Instructor Q&A: Karen Nguyen

Project Management

Winter 2021

“The opportunity to teach internationally has given me greater insights into project management practices, appreciation for cultural diversity, and mutual respect for team collaboration in a global project environment.”

Q. Why did you decide to become an instructor?

A. My decision to become an instructor was a natural progression thanks to my mentor, Marty Wartenberg, who is also an instructor for UCI DCE and has been teaching for the past 30 years. I met Marty while taking his Project Risk class back in 2009. He took me under his wing and taught me many aspects of project management, leadership, and teaching. Prior to entering graduate school, I was a guest speaker for various DCE classes and events over the course of eight years. One of my reasons for attending graduate school was to teach. Thanks to the staff and instructors at DCE who happily welcomed me as an instructor shortly after I graduated in 2017.

Q. What's your favorite lesson to teach and why?

A. My favorite lesson to teach is project management coupled with presentation and leadership skills. I like to blend all three disciplines for real-world experiences leveraging high performance team models and emotional intelligence components. Project management becomes more challenging when you are dealing with cultural influences that affect the team’s ability to lead and solve complex problems. The opportunity to teach internationally has given me greater insights into project management practices, appreciation for cultural diversity, and mutual respect for team collaboration in a global project environment.

Q. What's unique about your teaching style?

A. I like to aim for three A’s when it comes to my style of teaching:

  1. Aptitude for learning. In order to help promote newly acquired skills, I customize each course with a series of fun and creative activities starting with a “What’s Your Story” theme. The idea is to get students highly engaged and closely connected as a group by sharing impromptu stories about themselves throughout the class duration. This will naturally create a support group, which is especially important as we continue to navigate through the ever-changing pandemic landscape together.
  2. Application of learning. Students get specialized individual Zoom conference meetings with me once a week, if they are willing to apply what they have learned in class to their workplace. The idea is to get them to realize their immediate return on investment while equipping and empowering them with the ability to make their own connections through the knowledge gained from DCE. Their success story is shared with their classmates during the “What’s Your Story” highlights and lessons learned activities.
  3. Attitude for learning. Education is a lifelong learning journey. As long as they continue to learn and share their knowledge, they will continue to grow and make new friendships for years to come.
Q. What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?

A. As an instructor, I go beyond the textbooks and try to help my students realize their full potential. I like to follow Marty’s inspirational message: “Help people and be a positive influence on everything and everyone around you.” There is nothing more rewarding knowing I’ve made an impact on my students, and that I’ve shown them their potential to be part of something special and inspire others. Remember, knowledge is not only what you receive, but also what you give.