Faces on Campus – Dana Kucmasova

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Dana Kucmasova-Fernandes and I come from Slovakia, in Central Europe.  My educational background, both undergraduate and graduate, is in humanities.  I studied History and English Language & Literature as a double major with general teaching specialization at the University of Presov, Slovakia. English is my second language, although I do speak a few! As a Socrates-Erasmus scholar, I also studied at the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. It was a fantastic learning experience for me, I had the time of my life there.

After I earned my Master’s degree, I moved to London to pursue a career in teaching, which now spans well over 10 years. I taught at various schools in the U.K. and the Middle East as a home-room teacher, curriculum leader, and a multi-agency team class leader. I also provided one-on-one support to students with special educational needs such as autism and Down syndrome. I realized that teaching requirements—namely organizing, managing, meeting achievement targets and schedules, and liaising with different parties, stakeholders and organizations—often mirror those of a project manager; the only difference being that they may carry them out on a bigger scale and in a different industry. I felt a desire to explore what else is out there that I could enjoy as a career and be challenged by it. So, two years ago, I decided to make a career switch from education and go back to graduate school to transition into a new industry.

What influenced your decision to study at Northeastern University – Seattle?
I had visited Seattle a few times and I thought it seems like a good city to relocate to if I ever wanted a break from London. The academic excellence of Northeastern University, and its proximity to the heart of technology and innovation in Seattle, were equally attractive for my desire to learn and expand my knowledge in STEM disciplines. Naturally, Seattle was my first choice to pursue a graduate degree in the U.S.

And here I am, studying project management at College of Professional Studies at the Seattle campus! When it came to my project management program, I selected a custom concentration by choosing courses with a focus on IT and technical projects. This has enabled me to tailor the program to my professional needs and career objectives, which is an added value for me personally.

I have also been tutoring at the International Tutoring Center (ITC) at NU-Seattle. The ITC provides language, academic and cultural support to international students, faculty and staff. I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to capitalize on my former career expertise while studying full-time and preparing for a career in project management. Moreover, my interactions with students are also personally enriching, they facilitate a better understanding and appreciation of their home culture, background, and educational journeys. There are many times I feel very proud to belong to Northeastern University with so many brilliant students working hard to achieve their goals and prepare for future careers. It is very inspiring and it helps me stay focused when I face challenges in my own journey.

I think NU-Seattle has fostered a great environment by developing a learning community where everyone can grow by learning from the top faculty, and from each other in many different ways—including classroom interactions, TA hours, one-on-one appointments with the faculty, workshops, networking events, and community lectures.

What is your favorite class?
I have had a few favorite classes that I often recommend to fellow project management students. Information Technology Project Management with Professor Simon Cleveland, Project Risk Management with Ms. Linh Luong, and the Foundations of Project Management with Professor Mike Kuntz (who is a seasoned project manager with years of experience at Boeing), were particularly interesting. Of course, there are also other professors that have enriched my experience at Northeastern and I have learned a lot from them. I like the fact that not only are they experts on the subjects they teach, but they are also very approachable and helpful.

I am looking forward to increasing my knowledge and technical skills during my last remaining courses before I graduate. I am currently pursuing internship/co-op opportunities for Spring quarter. If I don’t get one, this will be my last semester!

What is your favorite thing about Seattle?
I moved to Seattle from London which is a big change for me. Seattle is a lot calmer on the streets and I appreciate not having to experience a frantic pace on a daily basis as all the hustle and bustle of London can be overstimulating at times. I enjoy green and clean spaces and beautiful landscape, lakes and nature of the Pacific Northwest are a balm for my soul. I live on the Eastside so I also like to explore suburbs and venture further into the countryside. My new favorite town is La Conner, which charmed me with its compact main street lined with a selection of traditional town shops, restaurants, and cafes, and its waterfront with the pier.

What do you hope to achieve after you graduate?
After I graduate, I am hoping to find a project management role with one of the IT, high tech or biotech companies here in Seattle. After I have gained some work experience, my goal is to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. The PMP exam requires professional project management experience alongside the subject knowledge and this certification will hopefully open many more professional opportunities internationally.

I am also hoping to foster a good work-life balance and continue with some activities I used to participate in when I lived in London. I want to resume Pilates classes and travel more. I also be more involved in my local community and support causes that have always been dear to me, such as Catholic Church charities, education, and the underprivileged and marginalized in our society.  I am sure there’s more than plenty to accomplish once I graduate.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share my views, ideas and a bit of my world with the NU-Seattle community.


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