Guiding Growth

Christine Strom shares how the MPM program helped her develop the skills she relies on as director of planning and construction for Northwestern Medicine.

Christine Strom (MPM '06) routinely hears a question from either her 2-year-old or 4-year-old daughters whenever they pass a construction site. 

"Mama, is that your crane?" 

She smiles every time she hears the question. No, Strom does not own a crane, but her work as director of planning and construction for Northwestern Medicine has allowed her to leave her stamp on a wide range of construction projects.  

The Northwestern Medicine health system features 11 hospitals — including Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the top-ranked hospital in Illinois — and more than 200 ambulatory sites.  

"Our planning and construction team touches every area of the system," Strom said. "We have grown as a health system, and this has been a wonderful opportunity to embrace growth in scale and scope of my responsibilities and the responsibilities of my team." 

That growth would not have been possible for Strom if not for her time in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Project Management (MPM) program. 

Strom had already been accepted to a different school’s master’s program when MPM offered her a spot in its class of 2006. Changing direction wasn’t difficult, she said.  

“What drew me to the MPM program was its focus on teaching the skills that I would use immediately in my career," she said. "I also was impressed by the individuals from the industry who were involved in the program to teach their skills to us.”  

Strom parlayed her MPM experience into advancing responsibilities in the construction industry. Soon after her MPM graduation, she joined W.E. O’Neil Construction as an assistant project manager, then moved on in 2012 to United Airlines, where she served as senior construction project manager.  

In 2014, she made the decision to join the team at Northwestern Medicine. She was a project manager for nearly seven years before being promoted to her current position in August 2021.  

Strom works with the various vendor teams, internal operations teams, and project managers to ensure work on developing the system’s facilities is completed on time, within budget, and meets the needs of those who will use the space. That includes renovations, as well as new construction.  

As a leader, Strom prides herself on her empathy and vulnerability. 

"Empathy is important to understand the perspective of all of the individuals who are involved in our capital projects," she said. "Vulnerability is important because I don’t mind asking questions and getting answers so we can move forward — not being worried to admit if there is something I do not know." 

Communication is also a key component of her responsibilities. 

One of the most important lessons Strom learned during her time in MPM was the value of experiencing construction. There is only so much that can be learned from a textbook, she was told. 

"How to best learn the elements of building construction is to get in the field and observe," she said. "Everyone has a starting point from where they don't know the acronyms and the sequence." 

That is why Strom loves taking her daughter's on-site visits — even if they still long for her to own a crane. It is also why Strom volunteered to join the MPM Alumni Ambassador Program. This program consists of graduates who help promote MPM and make themselves available to talk with prospective students.  

“I believe it is my duty to instill those values with the next generation of construction professionals so that they can have that same feeling,” she said. “I want to help young students grow and develop their skills.” 

McCormick News Article