On entering a Lowe’s home improvement store, how many people think about the lighting the store uses, how a broken automatic door gets fixed, or what kind of paint is used on the walls?
Since his promotion in November 2015 to building design manager at the corporate office of Lowe’s in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Northeastern faculty member Chris Bolick has been thinking of little else.
“My focus is on the specification of materials and design criteria needed to build and maintain our 1,700 plus stores across the United States,” Bolick says. “I look at lighting, for example, or roofing material, and make recommendations on vendors to use or approaches to explore—all with reduced costs of more efficiency in mind.”
Bolick has been a member of the faculty of Northeastern’s Master of Science in Project Management program since 2014, bringing both knowledge of theory and its application in a Fortune 50 company to his teaching. Based at Northeastern’s Charlotte campus, he teaches courses in “Effective Communications for Technical Projects,” “Cost and Scheduling,” “Project Management Practices,” “Quality Management,” and “Risk Management.” He particularly appreciates the fact that the course is 100 percent online, making it possible for students to attend no matter where they live in the world or what their work schedule may be.
“Looking at the roster at the beginning of each class and seeing how the students are spread across the world is the neatest thing,” he says.
With his 10 years’ prior experience at Lowe’s, where he provided operations guidance to project managers and engineers building and maintaining the stores, Bolick has a lot of firsthand experience to draw upon in his classes, though, he says, the principles of project management are universal.
“I may talk about construction,” he says, “but then a student from China will use these same principles to talk about systems design for information technology. I learn so much from my students about their different fields and I also see how the principles we teach work in any field.”
Moving forward, Bolick is already looking at how his current position will impact his classes.
“I’ve already started revising several of the classes adding in specific real world examples, or ‘notes from the field,'” he says. “I love teaching the variety of courses—it keeps me on my toes! Students are always asking good questions, so I have to keep on top of the subject matter. When you teach, you’re pretty much required to stay at the top of your field.”