Project management students implement projects in Cook Islands03 November 2014

Application of Project Management students with Dr David Parker. From left to right: Andrew Williamson, Bo Zhu, Dr. David Parker, Morris Jones, and Ashanthi Uluwita

Four project management students at UQ Business School have recently completed a 10 day tour of Rarotonga, where they implemented social development and improvement projects in several Cook Islands government departments.

The Master’s students embarked on initiatives including planning for disaster recovery (Office of the Prime Minister), improvements to black pearl farming (Ministry of Economic Development), modelling of airport operations (Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration) and health services data integration (Ministry of Health & Social Welfare).

Senior Lecturer Dr David Parker, whose strong relationships in the Pacific region facilitated the trip, said that the unique learning opportunity enabled the students to build their knowledge and experience in an international setting.

“Working in Rarotonga can be a confronting experience, particularly if you expect things will happen just like in Australia. The students very soon realised that they had to make something work with limited resources and with a lack of good information. But the friendly and welcoming attitude of the islanders more than compensates.”

Student Morris Jones, who has previously worked at the Australian Tax Office, spoke of his ability to apply his previously acquired skills to the new environment.

“This was nothing like the ATO. But I was able to transfer my knowledge of process improvement to the licencing of fishing and pearl farming in the Ministry of Marine Resources. It was no good thinking in the same way as back in Australia; here there are very different hurdles and challenges that need solving (or at least improving).”

Andrew Williamson, who also visited Raratonga, said: “I was able to work closely with senior staff in the Office of the Prime Minister, where I conducted training in project management software. It will enable time saving as well as allowing a much better control over multiple projects. I felt I really made a difference. It was a great result all-round.”

The immersion also resulted in a joint collaboration with the University of the South Pacific, with UQ Business School providing teaching and learning experience, programs, and infrastructure as part of an institution building program that will bring a range of future benefits to Rarotonga.

“One of the reasons for undertaking programs such as this is to target those universities in emerging economies which need institutional strengthening and leading to an international standard,” Dr Parker added.

Students in the Application of Project Management course are currently completing a Masters degree to be qualified in project management; and with so many projects being undertaken internationally, the course encourages time to be spent overseas. Consequently, students benefit from exposure to a new culture and ways of working, and the organisations gain from an intensive review of their operations.

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