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ODU Meeting Need by Offering For-Credit Graduate Procurement Programs

sbgordon-stephen-gordonStephen Gordon

In a time of ever-tightening budgets for business, government and the military, cost savings are being sought in every aspect of operations. The field of procurement, or purchasing and contracting for goods, services and construction, represents an area where organizations will be tested to find efficiencies in a difficult financial climate.

Old Dominion University is filling the gap, offering one of the country's first for-credit, graduate-level procurement programs.

The program is headed by Stephen Gordon, a faculty member in the Department of Urban Studies and Public Administration of ODU's College of Business and Public Administration (CBPA), who joined the university in 2011 after more than 35 years as one of the country's leading experts in public procurement. He came to ODU from the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing, where he was a visiting research fellow and served as president and member of the board of directors . Previously, Gordon had been director of procurement for the city of Alexandria.

"Most people don't realize that procurement is a strategic function. It can impact whether an organization succeeds or fails," Gordon said.

"The courses in ODU's Graduate Certificate in Public Procurement and Contract Management program provide students with insights, ideas and skills they can use to support cost savings, improvements in efficiency and other strategic goals for public-sector organizations."

Old Dominion is one of only two institutions in the United States offering a for-credit, graduate-level procurement program not focused exclusively on federal government procurement. The other program, which Gordon also helped found, is located at Florida Atlantic University.

Gordon said elected officials and senior public administrators are eager to hire workers who understand that public procurement can be done for much more than compliance.

Completion of the ODU program will also position students as strong contenders for top jobs in public procurement.

The people taking the classes are typically students seeking to launch a career in procurement, or those seeking a career switch. But some industry professionals, including the purchasing director for a local housing authority, are seeing value in pursuing the certificate as well, Gordon said.

And most excitingly, there has also been significant interest in the online program from outside U.S. borders. Professionals from foreign-based industries and government agencies doing business with the United States see value in learning the ins and outs of modern-day procurement in this country. For CBPA Dean Gilbert Yochum, this international focus is the hallmark of the program. The in-person or online courses that comprise the graduate certificate - such as Public Sector Contract Administration, Public Sector Procurement Law and Ethics, and Public-Private Partnership - have been introduced over the past four semesters. There are several electives approved for the certificate, including Leadership, Public Financial Management, Public-Private Partnerships, and Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.

By September, an enrollee in the program attending part time will be able to earn the certificate in 12 months.

Gordon and Meg Jones, CBPA graduate program manager, will host receptions around the state to recruit prospective students for the new graduate certificate program.

It is designed as a stand-alone program composed of four required courses and one elective (15 credits total). Additionally, students enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program may take the certificate courses as their electives, earning both the certificate and an M.P.A. simultaneously. Individuals who complete the certificate program and later decide to complete an M.P.A. have the option of applying the certificate credits toward their M.P.A. degree.

Admission to the certificate program is open to anyone who has completed a bachelor's or master's degree at an accredited institution. Applicants enroll as non-degree graduate students through the Office of Graduate Admissions. Individuals completing the certificate as part of their M.P.A. must apply and be admitted to the M.P.A. program. For more information about the program, see: http://bpa.odu.edu/uspa/academics/procurement.shtml.