The 5th Degree: Fall 2014 Update

by Just Juan
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Earlier today, I received the official final grade from my 3rd and final class of the Fall semester. Before I break free from school for the next month, here’s an update on the 2nd leg to this drive for a 5th degree.

Coming off a very successful Spring 2014, I decided to increase my load to 3 classes for the semester. Two of the classes—EHS Accounting & Finance and Principles & Practices in Facility Management—were amongst the concentrated core classes of the program while the 3rd class—Graduate Research Methods—was a general core class I took in my previous graduate degree but elected to take again in this program. I did that for 2 reasons: (1) to refresh my skills in conducting proper research and getting acclimated to the research expectations at RIT and (2) it allowed me to satisfy some credit hour prerequisites regarding the housing allowance under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. It was actually quite a challenging semester as I found some difficulty with concepts of facility management I was unfamiliar with. I also had to contend with taking a research methods class in which I didn’t necessarily get a good feel on the instructor…not a good thing in an online class. Oh yeah, I had to juggle time with my new girlfriend as well. I finished the semester with 2 As and B, good enough for a 3.67 GPA in the term. My cumulative GPA dropped to 3.8. I did not achieve a perfect semester. And to be quite honest, I think I may temper that expectation all the way down based on the increased difficulty of the material within the program overall.

EHS Accounting & Finance—ESHS 725 in the RIT course catalog—was a different kind of class for me…as far as my experience with facility management goes. The course focused on the financial familiarity that is needed in the EHS and facility management professions. It covered the business decisions process of organizations with EHS missions…their costs and the role of facility managers in them. Working from The Facility Manager’s Guide to Finance and Budgeting—a collective effort by David Cotts and Edmond Rondeau—we learned about applying financial and accounting practices to facility and environmental decision-making using methods such as: asset valuation, liability valuation, income reporting, and balance sheet analysis. We also learned about capital budgeting, cost control estimation, and break-even analysis, amongst other decision methods that management typically is involved in. The course featured 10 in-depth discussion and feedback sessions, which accounted for 50% of the grade. Some of the topic areas were industry jargon, costs and cost controls, project accounting, annual and capital budgeting, environmental management, and the financial aspects of accounting. Additionally, we had 2 quizzes (10% of the grade), a midterm (15% of the grade) and a final (25% of the grade). At the end of the 15-week course, I gained an understanding of the economics of facility management…something that has not been a focal point in my time with the Corps of Engineers or even with the Air Force. Through this course, I was able to do all of the following:

  • Apply financial and accounting methods to facility and environmental management decision-making using methods such as asset valuation, liability valuation, income reporting, cash flow analysis, and balance sheet analysis
  • Apply management finance and accounting methods to facility and environmental management decision-making using methods such as capital budgeting, break-even analysis, and cost control estimation

Course Grade: 90.3 (A-)

Principles & Practices in Facility Management—FCMG 660 in the RIT course catalog—was the 1st course I’ve taken under the program head. The course was designed to provide an overview of the fundamental concepts of facility management. We used a couple of textbooks to navigate the semester: the 2nd edition of Facility Management by Rondeau, Robert Kevin Brown, and Paul Lapides as well as John Fennimore’s Sustainable Facility Management: Operational Strategies for Today. It was fairly self-explanatory why each text was needed. In terms of how the course played out, there were 5 parts, each weighing 20% of the grade: (1) 10 weekly discussions, (2) 10 weekly peer feedbacks, (3) a midterm, (4) a case study, and (5) the final. The curriculum was somewhat challenging because I had never been exposed to this side of the industry but I did learn a great deal that will help me going forward. I actually found great joy in the 3-week case study assignment because I was able to put the principles I learned about in class to quick use with a real-life scenario from work. At the end of the 15-week course, I was able to do all of the following:

  • Understand and apply key facility management concepts
  • Understand and apply sustainability concepts
  • Understand and apply risk concepts
  • Understand and apply procurement process concepts
  • Evaluate and interpret facility management performance concepts
  • Adopt a strategy and style as a Facility Manager

Course Grade: 94.0 (A)

Research Methods—GRCS 701 in the RIT course catalog—was the lone general core this semester. The course was designed to prepare students to design and conduct applied research using a number of commonly employed methodologies such as literature reviews, case studies, in-depth interviews, and benchmarking just to name a few. The text for the course was Research Methodology for Environmental, Health and Safety Management (and others) by John Morelli, who happened to be the course instructor. There were assignments from the text every week and each one of them explored a different area of research. It was actually a very challenging class, mostly because I could never really get a feel for what Dr. Morelli really wanted and more importantly, I’ve never been comfortable with the Chicago writing style. Nevertheless, at the end of the 15-week course, I was able to do all of the following:

  • Formulate a research topic
  • Use the Chicago Manual of Style
  • Effectively give credit
  • Conduct in-depth interviews and cross-sectional research surveys
  • Perform experimental and quasi-experimental design
  • Perform benchmarking and ethnographic studies

Course Grade: 89.1 (B+)

It wasn’t a spectacular semester like Spring 2014 was but I got the job done. I learned a lot from the 3 classes and I discovered some areas for personal and professional improvement…even in the Research Methods course. I lost out on a perfect semester early on and to be honest, I think I’m done with that pursuit. The material is just going to be far more challenging to keep up with a perfect pace.

I’m heading into Christmas with a 3.8 GPA and I’m already locked and loaded for 3 more classes for Spring 2015. I’ll take a month off and get right back to it.

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