Hard hats, bulldozers, and blueprints are nothing new to Chelsea Cowan, deputy director of contracting for the Georgia Department of Defense. Although she had plenty of in-the-field training in her career, Chelsea also desired professional education to continue advancing in the industry. The Construction Project Management certificate was her solution.
Her original career path was Hospitality Administration/Management in which she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida. She said, “[It] was a brand-new program when I declared my major. The Gulf Coast is booming with tourism, so I thought I would be able to excel in that field.”
However, Chelsea found herself wanting a change of pace after graduation. She moved to Texas and worked as an administrative assistant for the City of Austin at Austin Energy.
“After I had been there a little while, I was moved to a few different departments that needed extra help until I landed in contracting. I loved it and became a full-time contract compliance associate,” she said. Her success in this role was her inspiration to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration at her alma mater.
Her next move was to Georgia – the Clay National Guard Center for the Department of Defense in Smyrna hired her. Chelsea said, “I started as a contract compliance specialist where I managed and negotiated construction contracts for the National Guard. Within four years, I was promoted to Deputy Director of Contracting.”
After being on the job for a few years, she began researching area schools. She wanted a program that would help further her career while also working full time. She said, “KSU provided exactly what I needed. It was the perfect choice.”
Hand-on projects, engaging class sessions, and instructors with longtime professional experience are a few of Chelsea’s many highlights of this course. She describes the certificate program as informative – not overwhelming.
“The course taught me a lot about software programs, how to read drawings/specs, and estimating. The in-class conversations were extremely helpful because my classmates and I were able to use real-life experiences to compare and discuss solutions,” she said.
“It was nice to have different experience levels guiding us, and everyone in the class had different backgrounds in the field,” Chelsea continues. “Most of the classwork was interactive, and I worked with my other classmates on assignments and programs such as Bluebeam and AutoCAD.”
This focused educational approach to her career field has provided a comprehensive knowledge of construction and boosted her confidence in making decisions on the job.
“I am able to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ when discussing projects with my contractors,” she said. “Being able to understand the complete construction process, start to finish, allows me to be successful in contractual construction choices and negotiations.”
Chelsea plans to continue building upon her success by earning her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. She said, “I think it is important to be constantly learning and growing as an employee and to keep up with current software and trends.”