It was the late 1990s, and Debbie Spear had just started working in government contracts for UnitedHealthcare when she learned about the graduate Certificate in Procurement and Contract Management
that the School of Continuing and Professional Studies was offering at its Northern Virginia academic center in Falls Church. The program jumpstarted her evolution from contracts administrator to contracts manager. “Those courses were both in-depth and very helpful,” she says. “They helped me get my career off the ground.”
Today, Spear leads the contracts department at the Software Engineering Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is based at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The case studies that Spear analyzed as part of the curriculum made a lasting impression. “We had to be prepared to present and defend our conclusions,” she said. “I learned a lot about the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) — what the rules mean, how they are applied, and how the courts can interpret them. Completing the program gave me the confidence that I really did understand contract management.”
Spear attributes her success in securing new positions and gaining subsequent promotions to the knowledge she gained from the program. She notes that employers were impressed to see a University of Virginia certificate on her resume. And she was pleased to discover that her UVA credits transferred when she enrolled in a master of contracting program at the Florida Institute of Technology.
“If you want to stay in this field, the UVA certificate program is a great place to start,” she says. “I recommend that people take advantage of it.”
In fact, it is now much easier to take advantage of UVA's graduate certificate than it was when Spear was a student. The classes are now available online, making them accessible for working professionals across the U.S.