Faces on Campus – CJ Walker
CJ Walker joined the Northeastern University – Seattle faculty in August 2017. She is the first full-time project management professor designated to support the Seattle campus. CJ has a wealth of experience in a variety of industries and her work has taken her around the globe. In her (very limited) free-time, CJ enjoys homeschooling her 6-year-old son, travelling, dancing, theater, horse-back riding, hiking and watching old TV shows.
Hi CJ! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
You want just a little bit? Have you ever seen a racehorse pull up after only 100 yards? Well, I will try!
I started out as an FM radio disc jockey, then became a legal secretary. I took a basic project management course while getting my master’s degree from George Washington University. I thought, “This is full of opportunities! There will be constant growth in this area, constant change, it could be exciting, and I won’t be pushing paper across the desk.” Repetition does not light my fire.
My instructor, Dr. Davidson Frame, became my mentor. I was the only woman in the program, and the youngest student by about 20 years; everyone else had some project management experience, and some were PM veterans. At first, it was daunting, but in time, I knew I had found a home.
After I graduated, I joined the Project Management Institute’s Washington, D.C., chapter and became their Director of Education. I ran certification courses, which was both an education and a thrilling experience–so much so that I did it for eight years. Then I ran and was elected President of the chapter–the youngest person and first woman to hold that position. I also served as a mentor was and a member of the inaugural class of the Leadership Institute Program. So, it is fair to say that if you cut me, I will bleed Project Management!
Promise we won’t see if that happens! So what happened next?
I joined the Board Voluntary Action Committee for four years, two as chair. Then, I served a term on the international board of directors. By then, I had been teaching PM for years, at the University of Wisconsin and at the City University of Seattle. So, it made sense to join the Global Accreditation Committee, which makes sure schools with project management programs meet the PMI’s requirements.
A couple of years ago, I started attending Association of Change Management Professionals conferences, and have received one certification with another one on the way.
How about your years as a consultant?
I’ve worked across most industries–health, technology, energy, television and film, pharmaceuticals, automotive, government, aerospace, transportation, and even for Disney. I still consult part-time, with Praxis Consulting, which my husband and I founded.
So how did this journey bring you to Northeastern University?
I met Joe Griffin, the lead faculty member of the Master of Science in Project Management program. He was headed to Seattle to speak with students, suggested I join him, and things grew from there! In August, I was privileged to become the first full-time project management professor designated to support the Seattle campus. I try to guide students in the right career direction, advise them about co-ops, and I also teach classes. We are hoping to develop more elective courses and encourage more flexibility in the curriculum, as well as developing courses that will not only be applicable to Seattle, but some of the other campuses as well.
How about your off–hours interests?
Off hours? What are those? Actually, my husband and I home-school our 6-year-old son, and we both love to travel. I also love dancing, theater, horseback riding, hiking, and old TV shows!
What do you value most about Northeastern University-Seattle’s vision?
I love the entrepreneurship, I love the fact that they really emphasize the practical, hands-on co-op. NEU-Seattle is not just about knowledge acquisition, but also knowledge application. We also emphasize critical thinking, we don’t want people to be rubber stamps or just go along with whatever their professor says, and we want students to think through the challenges of organizational situations, work on problem-solving and root-cause analysis. Our students and our faculty are hands-on practitioners in this discipline, and they have tenacity, perseverance and value diversity in culture.