Within the Department of Construction Management at Colorado State University lies not cold concrete, calculations, and kinematics, but rather a group of dedicated students passionate about helping better the lives of those less fortunate.
Started in 2011, the Construction Management Cares program aims to aid the local community while simultaneously teaching CM students vital skills in practical project management from planning all the way to completion.
“When the department created the program, I was really excited to be a part of it because I have a son with disabilities,” explained Khristy Jesse, CM Cares and departmental career development coordinator. “So I looked for those in need of a real difference.”
Now, the program services disabled, elderly, or otherwise in-need community members by redefining living and working spaces to improve their day-to-day lives. Jesse acts as the “agent” for the group, finding opportunities in and around Fort Collins where students can act.
“This isn’t just great for the recipients of our work,” said Jesse. “The students get practical work experience that is necessary for their graduation.”
In the fall, Jesse presents several opportunities to students. After selecting a few, students break into management teams and spend their semester learning how to apply construction management techniques to a practical problem. In the end, they must have a working proposal for a site that meets the requirements set forth by the community member and works within a budget and time constraint.
This is one of very few classes that requires a follow-on course in the spring. Once the team comes back from a well-earned winter break, they must build their concept within the constraints. In this way, Jesse knows they can enter the workforce ready to take on any construction plan.
Of course, Jesse and her students can’t build using good intentions alone. Rather, their mission and drive inspire several organizations to donate time, money, equipment and software to the projects.
“I’m telling our partners to wait a year or two as we try to spread our influence across industries,” Jesse enthused. “This gives our students a breadth of experience with potential employers”
Big names like US Engineering, Interstate Highway Construction and Habitat for Humanity have all worked with the program, among many others. Furthermore, the assets these companies and agencies bring to the table give students hands-on experience with literal tools of the trade.
As an example, all Spring 2020 builds will an industry gold-standard cloud-based management software, completely free.
“Some corporate partners don’t even have access to [this software],” explained Jesse. “Our students are using top-of-the-line assets; saying it’s valuable on a resume is an understatement.”
What’s more, this herculean effort from Jesse’s team expands beyond the students and their future careers.
“When students meet a family that struggles with a child’s health condition, when they hear their struggles, I can see the determination in their eyes” said Jesse. “All of this success, all of the support, is nothing compare to the joy of completing a project for someone they’ve been working with for almost an entire year.”
For more information about CM Cares or the construction management program, see their website.
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