Meet Kevan Kivlan, MS, who serves as a Director for the US General Services Administration in New England. Kevan is responsible for the overall regional stakeholder program management where he oversees a team who provides program, project and acquisition advice to federal, state and local governments. In 2010, Kevan received an M.S. in Project and Program Management from Brandeis University after completing his undergraduate studies at Assumption College in Worcester, MA in 2002.
Kevan transformed his role from Brandeis GPS student to Brandeis GPS instructor in 2017, and now teaches RPJM 115: Challenges in Project Management alongside his professional career. In the following Q&A, he discusses what led to this transition, what has come of it, and how this shift in roles has impacted both his educational and professional spheres.
Q: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
A: I live in Gloucester, MA with my wife and our 2 children. For those unfamiliar with Gloucester, it is a coastal city on the north shore of Massachusetts. Historically Gloucester is known as a fishing community, it’s beautiful beaches, and it’s arts. We love living in Gloucester because of its island feel and our many friends. I originally grew up in Chelmsford, MA where I attended Chelmsford Public Schools.
Q: Tell us what led you to enroll in Brandeis GPS as a student.
A: I had been researching a master’s degree program with flexibility and local to Boston. During this time, a friend of mine, who I worked with at the time, told me about the Brandeis Program and Project Management degree program. I researched it, took a couple of sample classes and decided it was the right program for me.
Q: What did you enjoy the most about your student experience?
A: The student experience at Brandeis was great. I really enjoyed being surrounded by early, mid, and later career classmates who brought such a wide variety experience from different industries and backgrounds. This contributed to a diverse and rich learning environment. I graduated in 2010 and was happy to experience this same experience again in 2017 when I started teaching at GPS.
Q: Why did you want to become an instructor for GPS?
A: I taught high school early on in my career and loved it, but had never considered becoming an instructor until Leanne Bateman invited me to apply in 2010. At the time, I actually passed on the opportunity because my wife was just about to have our first child, [but] I didn’t stop thinking about potentially teaching down the road. So in 2015, I reached out to GPS to see if the invitation was still there, I interviewed and was fortunate enough to be chosen for the position.
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching?
A: The communication between students and our classroom exchanges. The students at GPS are extraordinary. They are diligent, intelligent and the professional experiences they share to enrich the learning environment. The participation element of the GPS courses is definitely a highlight and reinforces the subject matter with real-life questions and content.
Q: Do you feel that teaching for GPS has continued to support your own professional development?
A: Of course, teaching challenges me to stay relevant in my expertise, experience, and knowledge of the subject matter. It also inspires me to write and organize my thoughts on course subject areas.
Q: How does what you’ve learned at GPS and what you’ve learned throughout your career inform what you teach your students?
A: Having been a student in GPS helps because I can always ask the question, what would Kevan the student have done? This serves as sort of a benchmark for the level of effort and quality when I am considering a student’s performance. Now, I am not saying I was the perfect student, but I know I put a ton of work into each course I took, so I have that to measure against. And obviously, I follow the course rubric, but it helps to have the experience of being a GPS student. Additionally, being a GPS alum helps because I experienced great instructors like, Anne Marando, Leanne Bateman, and Laurie Lesser, and know what a really great classroom environment looks like based on their example.
In terms of my career, I would like to think I bring a seasoned perspective with plenty applicable experiences from the many professional positions I have performed. I try to weave those experiences into the classroom discussions and course announcements as much as possible to expand on the subject area and ask questions that are relevant to the students.
Q: Was there anything in particular about your student experience that shaped your approach to teaching?
A: This is a tough question because I had so many great instructors. Rather than a specific encounter, conversation or assignment, I think I would say it’s just a general characterization of my experience in words. The 3 words that describe my experience are fairness, flexibility, and responsiveness. In terms of the classroom experience being a challenging master’s level course, this goes without saying, so I think these are the characteristics I strive to deliver to the GPS students who attend my class.
Q: Having worked in program management for several different levels and branches of government, how do you apply what you’ve learned to such a diverse range of projects?
A: One of the things about Government is there are always many stakeholders with a wide variety of objectives. One of the main things Brandeis taught me was a systematic, yet flexible, method of planning and executing strategies to meet stakeholder expectations. Most importantly, GPS emphasized this is through building relationships, including stakeholders in the process, and making sure they know what to expect in terms of communication.
Q: What are some noteworthy projects you’ve managed?
A: I have managed lots and been involved in lots of projects. The last project I consulted on, outside of my normal job, was a Light Art Festival in Downtown Crossing called, ILLUMINUS. I helped the LuminArtz and ILLUMINUS team kick things off, organize a project charter and begin their planning. In this same vein, in my free time, I am also currently helping LuminArtz collaborate on their next light art project with a local museum. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about it too much yet.
Q: How do you try to inspire the same interest you have for project and program management in your students?
A: By sharing my experience and encouraging to look at their everyday experience as relevant to their coursework and learning.
Q: What kinds of skills does your course equip your students with?
A: The course I teach right now is called Challenges in Project Management. We explore a ton of current topics and challenges in the subject area. The one thing I try to emphasize to my students is to see beyond the challenges presented and visualize the potential opportunities that are possible because of the circumstances. I guess I try to help students see the positive in the challenges presented, not to sugar coat things or avoid facing the negative, but to instill the idea in business every experience is something we can learn from to improve on, build on, and capitalize on in the future.
Q: What do you like to do outside of work/school?
A: Spending time with and enjoying my family. Going out to dinner with my wife. Enjoying the beach in the summer, especially after work. Visiting as many playgrounds as possible with my children. Eating coffee ice cream with chocolate sprinkles, and finding TV shows I can binge watch (right now we’re watching The Good Place). My other like is grocery shopping, which I think is something from when I was a child and my memories of grocery shopping with my mother.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us?
A: I am always open to chatting about ideas, questions, experiences, so reach out to me via LinkedIn. Hope to see you in the classroom. And in case you’ve been wondering, it’s Kevin with an A.
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