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Construction Management: UT Tyler’s Explosive New Discipline

The Department of Construction Management is one of the newest and fastest growing programs at The University of Texas at Tyler.

Implemented in the fall of 2007 with only 12 students, the program almost tripled in size within a year. Thirty-four construction management majors were enrolled for the fall of 2008.

Dr. W. Clayton Allen, professor and associate dean in the College of Business and Technology, said construction management was launched to meet an educational and community need.

“There is a need for construction managers in the field, particularly in the East Texas area,” he said. “I’ve been in and working with the construction business since 1981. And I know the shortage of construction managers in the field. We conceptualized this to be sensitive to students, to the needs in the area and to serve the business and community.”

Construction management prepares graduates for careers where they may manage multimillion dollar projects in one of these areas: high production housing, commercial construction, heavy civil construction or industrial construction.

Dr. John Martin, professor of construction management, said, “Most construction management program graduates are hired by commercial construction companies for civil or industrial projects such as big box retail, sports facilities, churches, shopping centers, higher education facilities, K-12 schools and health care such as hospitals and clinics.”

He said graduates with a construction management degree can make an average starting salary of between $50,000 and $65,000, depending on what market they go into.

People who recruit construction managers are looking for someone who can manage projects, people and processes. “It is a vehicle for economic development around the world,” Dr. Martin said. “It is fine to design, but without someone to manage, it doesn’t happen. We are the facilitators. It’s a great discipline.’’

Attracting Students
Dr. Allen said, “This is only the second year we’ve implemented the program. And a number of people majoring in other tech programs have moved into it, who were interested in construction management from the time we started talking about it.”

Thomas Browning was one of those students. A senior, he was in the School of Business Administration when he learned about the new construction management program and transferred over.

“I had decided that construction was what I wanted to do. Nothing else in the college interested me as much,” said Browning, who already has held an internship in the field in Los Angeles, Calif. In the summer, he will head to Irvine, Calif., for a second internship.

Jerilyn Davis, a sophomore from Gilmer, said she was enrolled in another university when she found out about the new construction management program at UT Tyler.

“I transferred over to join the program,” she said. “I wanted to do something different, something out of the office. I’m planning on going into residential construction management. I think having a home means a lot for a family. To help people get in their own home would be rewarding."

Miss Davis is also the only female in the program. “It was a little different from day one,” she said. “But they have all been so nice. They even threw me a surprise birthday party.”

Rewarding Career
Dr. Martin said construction management can be a rewarding career for men or women. “Many people think of construction as being a man’s discipline. But most of the commercial and residential work is made by a team that works together. If the client wants to build a facility that will ultimately be used by predominantly women, then a woman on the team is a great asset. If you can get past the image of a hard hat and steel-toe boots, you can do well.”

Dr. Allen said, “There is a certain amount of excitement to this discipline. It takes a person who likes to be in the action.”

For junior Tim Ballard, construction management had all the right ingredients. “I was in a dead-end job away from my family and decided to go back to school. And I couldn’t be more pleased with what I’ve learned here and the events I’ve been involved in. It has prepared me to be an autonomous manager who can tackle anything thrown at me. I know so much more now than I did before on all the fundamentals.

Timothy Wilson, a junior from Tyler, said construction management is the best degree program for him. He had extensive contracting experience and liked the idea of home building as a professional. “I’d like eventually to work in residential construction. I like being able to customize things for customers.”

Dr. Martin predicts the program will continue to grow with students like these. “We are working toward the goal of being accredited by the American Counsel of Construction Education,” he said. “We’ve put together curriculum for that and in the coming years, we will become a candidate school.’’

There are only about 80 such four-year programs in the United States that are credited by ACCE, Dr. Martin said. “It is a very specialized area, and not many schools have it. This is a major that can put UT Tyler on the map internationally. There are few programs like this around the world. We’re not only going to be a local discipline, but we’ll be able to attract students on a global basis.”

The construction management specialization is unheard of in other countries, the professor said, adding that students come to the U.S. to get the education.

Students in the UT Tyler program not only learn about the basics of construction, but also about leadership, philanthropy and business.

“Once a week the students wear business attire,” Dr. Martin said. “And they take finance, management, marketing, economics, accounting. They almost have enough hours in business to get a minor in business. We’re trying to develop professionalism. It’s not that easy to manage and facilitate people. But when you are involved in an actual project, it gets in your blood. You can feel proud of what you do.”

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