Construction management program builds interested engineers from the ground up

The new construction management minor will be housed in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

construction site of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building

The construction site of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building in 2018. Students can now earn a minor in construction management to prepare them to take the reins on complex construction projects like this one.

Construction management program builds interested engineers from the ground up

The new construction management minor will be housed in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

The construction site of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building in 2018. Students can now earn a minor in construction management to prepare them to take the reins on complex construction projects like this one.

construction site of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building

The construction site of the William N. Pennington Engineering Building in 2018. Students can now earn a minor in construction management to prepare them to take the reins on complex construction projects like this one.

Many years ago, the Nevada Chapter of Associated General Contractors sponsored a post-baccalaureate construction management program with the College of Engineering. Industry professionals taught courses for students in a variety of topics and after completion of the program, a student received a certificate. 

Unfortunately, during the Great Recession, this program was discontinued. AGC worked for over a decade to seek an opportunity to create a minor program in construction management for engineering students to replace the discontinued program.

With the help of Dean Manos Maragakis and Krishna Pagilla, chair and professor of civil and environmental engineering, a working group was formed to consider the inclusion of the new minor. The Construction Management Minor has been developed in collaboration with regional and state construction agencies, alongside the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Advisory Board and department faculty, with the goal of providing our students with state-of-the-art training relating to the construction industry. New courses are in the process of being developed which will give our graduates a competitive edge when they seek careers in the construction industry.

Working with the University Foundation, an endowment was created for this effort. The AGC Board approved both the fundraising drive to fund the endowment by its members and the AGC’s initial contribution of $50,000 toward those efforts. The industry support has been enthusiastic and this program received nearly $200,000 in donations towards the endowment.

“We are very fortunate to have such strong industry support. Indeed, we hope to offer classes where our students learn directly with regional professionals in the industry and we are looking to include internship opportunities where appropriate,” said Eric Marchand, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “Our ultimate goal with the minor will be to have a student cohort consisting of not only engineering students, but also students from the College of Business and other STEM disciplines. Since the construction industry is very interdisciplinary, it will be important for us to mimic that dynamic in the minor program.”

The program hopes to keep locally talented students who are interested specifically in construction management, not just civil engineering, in Northern Nevada instead of letting potential University students leave for other colleges.

“The construction management program will provide a valuable and practical set of tools for our engineering graduates to work in the construction industry,” said Pagilla. “Since our program is promoted and supported by the construction industry, our graduates will find opportunities to train alongside real world practitioners and be employed by the industry. It is a win-win-win combination for the graduates, industry, and the university.”

“We feel that this program will allow students interested in the construction side of our industry to self-identify and gain real-world knowledge in order to become a member of our workforce,” said Craig Madole, executive director of the Nevada AGC. “In continuing to work with the College, we can schedule career days and hiring and job fairs for these students to ensure they stay in our community.”

Madole also says the program will allow the industry to further partner with the University to provide students and graduates greater access to opportunities in the northern Nevada region.

“Granite Construction donated $20,000 and many other companies joined us with pledges of funds, but I believe we are well on our way to gathering the required funds,” said Brian Dowd, Vice President and Regional Manager of Nevada Operations at Granite Construction.

Almost 37% of the company’s project engineers, project managers, and area managers are University graduates, so Dowd says there’s an interest in continuing to build a strong pipeline of local candidates to bring on board.

“I recently had lunch with a group of University students that are starting internships and co-ops with Granite and they had already heard about the new [construction management minor] and expressed their excitement that it was going to be offered,” Dowd said in June.

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