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Josianne Ballin


Dear PMIAK Member,

The current Chair of PMI GAC (Global Accreditation Center) is from Anchorage! Professor LuAnn Piccard is also the Head of the UAA College of Engineering – Engineering, Science and Project Management Department (ESPM) which includes the Master of Science in Project Management (MSPM) Program). I talked to LuAnn about GAC and this huge accomplishment, which is also a testament to the high quality of Project Management in Alaska! Our conversation is recorded below. I am sure you’ll find it fascinating!!




LuAnn Picard


Josiane: Can you tell us what GAC is?

LuAnn: GAC stands for Global Accreditation Center. It is an organization supported by PMI that accredits academic programs in Project Management around the world. GAC is the only accrediting body in the world for academic programs for Project Management. It is like ABET, the accrediting body for Engineering programs or AACSB, the accrediting body for Business programs.  In the US and around the world, regional or national accreditation is given to the institution as a whole.  For example, UAA, UAF and UAS are each accredited at the institution level by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) which is one of seven regional bodies that accredit universities across the US.  Other countries have national level ministries of education which ensure that universities within their countries meet their national academic standards.  Within regionally or nationally accredited institutions, specialized academic degree programs such as medicine, law, engineering, business, nursing, etc. seek programmatic accreditation for specific professional programs based on industry and professional standards and requirements Programmatic accrediting bodies ensure that there is a high level of quality assurance for those programs, clear demonstration of continuous improvement, and evidence that students achieve necessary learning outcomes defined by the profession and licensing bodies. GAC provides programmatic accreditation for project management programs within regionally or nationally accredited institutions globally. The UAA MSPM program was one of the first 13 programs world-wide to receive GAC accreditation in 2007.  Our GAC accreditation was reaffirmed in 2015.

Josiane: Why GAC? Why did you decide to accept the challenge?

LuAnn: It started 10 years ago when I joined UAA as a faculty member. We were one of the first 13 programs in the world to receive accreditation from GAC (the very first one was Western Carolina), so when we started we were one of the leaders when it came to quality in Project Management academic programs as it is a relatively new field of study academically. I got involved with GAC and PMI because our program was going through the accreditation process. Before a program receives accreditation from GAC a comprehensive self-assessment report based on the accreditation standards defined by GAC must be submitted to them. The report is evaluated and GAC sends an on-site visit team to the campus to verify evidence that what happens day-to-day is consistent with the self-assessment report and to validate that the program meets the standards. Those on-site visits typically last two and a half days.  The team is made up of volunteers that include academic leaders and project management practitioners.


As part of my role in the UAA MSPM program, I led the process in 2007 to seek accreditation for our degree program. I led the process to prepare the self-assessment report and host the on-site visit team.  Because of that work – and after we received our accreditation – and my involvement with the GAC family I was invited to be part of a committee to develop better tools for the On-Site Visit teams so that the process and recommendations could be more consistent globally.  I also participated in many on-site visits around the world to assess different project management academic programs. Then I was invited to participate in GAC strategic planning.  After those contributions, I was invited to be a GAC Director.  I have served in that role for 3 years. During that time, I helped to develop a new revision of our GAC accreditation standards which are now being implemented around the world. In December 2016, I was elected Chair of GAC Directors.  I will serve as Chair for 2 years and will serve one additional year after that to help transition GAC to new leadership.


NOTE: in 2015 UAA MSPM Program received its second round of accreditation.  Our UAA MSPM program was selected to “test drive” the new version of the GAC standards and on-site visit process prior to releasing the new version to others.  Doing so helped us to verify the new standards and to improve the accreditation process for candidate programs and volunteers. It was exciting to be part of that effort since I was on the GAC sub-Committee that developed the new version of the standards for GAC accreditation.

Josiane: What now? What are your expectations of the GAC Chair for the 2017-2020 term?

LuAnn: My goals for the next two years as  the GAC Chair  are:

  • Significantly grow our footprint around the world of key institutions that have Project Management programs and have them become part of the GAC family
  • Fully and professionally operationalize the new standards and the on-site visit processes
  • Develop and implement a long term strategic plan which is in alignment with PMI and other PM bodies to help advance the profession and support the careers of individuals who chose PM as a profession. The plan will demonstrate how important and pivotal the academic world is in the context of a much larger strategy for PMI and project management in general around the world.  
  • Address and respond to the challenges of accreditation within the dynamic and changing academic landscape
  • Encourage students to choose PM as a profession based on industry demand, job opportunities, and the quality of standards implemented within academic programs at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral level globally.

Josiane: How many members are there in the GAC Board?

LuAnn: There are 11 members representing each key region globally. Since GAC works with academic programs around the world, it is an interesting challenge to develop and implement academic accreditation standards.  Our directors represent academic leaders and practioners from all over the world and they bring their knowledge of what is required for academic programs in their countries as well as what skills are demanded in the workforce. Together we create and shape global accreditation standards that will work regardless of the academic level (Bachelor’s Master’s or PhD Programs) or where the institution is in the world.  The set of standards we create need to be adaptable to the requirements of universities and industries throughout the world. 

Josiane: What is your main message to our members?

LuAnn: It is an incredibly huge compliment that someone from the University of Alaska Anchorage serves as a GAC Director and Chair. That privilege is not about me personally but reflects the quality of our program, our students, our alumni and our PM community in Alaska.  We have worked in collaboration with industry, academia, and our students to evolve this program. UAA’s MSPM program is considered a leader among other programs around the world.  We are often asked to share our best practices to help other PM programs develop their curriculum and provide ideas on how to enhance their students’ learning outcomes. That is really cool! It is also a testament to the quality of Project Management in Alaska in general.  Project Managers in Alaska face many challenges that are not faced in other regions. These challenges make us stronger as an overall PM community and helps us be recognized by others outside of Alaska. PMI-AK plays a terrific role in advancing the profession and supporting individuals who choose PM as a profession through collaboration, networking, and professional development.  It is a privilege for our UAA MSPM program to be so closely aligned with the PMI-AK Chapter.  I am excited to continue to improve our UAA MSPM program as well as to take a leadership role as GAC Chair to advance the profession and support individuals who choose PM as a profession. It is very exciting to know that Alaska is so well represented by PMI AK, the UAA MSPM program and our leadership of the GAC.

One other important thing to say is that when we were developing the new GAC accreditation standards that were completed in 2015, PMI was also developing the PMI Talent Triangle ® (Technical, Strategic and Leadership). As it turned out, our GAC academic accreditation standards reflected the same critical skills necessary for graduates of PM programs. We want PM program graduates to have technical expertise, strategic awareness of where their project fits within the context of their organization’s mission and objectives, and professional and ethical behaviors and skills to lead teams and engage stakeholders globally. These skills will lead to better job opportunities for our students and demonstrate how project managers can help organizations translate ideas and strategies into results and build sustained competitive advantage. It was gratifying and reinforcing to know that even though PMI and GAC did not collaborate directly, we ended up in the same place. It was really awesome to see that!


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