Engineering proposes another construction project

Celia Downes

Saying it would benefit both the school and the larger community, members of the civil and environmental engineering department plan to propose a new undergraduate major in construction management.

The concept of an undergraduate major in construction management — the university already offers a graduate-level major — was a brainstorm for several years. Plans became more concrete last year when the department’s former dean, Douglas Green, as well as professors Otto Widera and Saeed Karshenas decided to pursue the topic more seriously, according to engineering professors.

“The idea was there,” Karshenas said, “but it wasn’t seriously considered (until last year).”

Spearheading the project now are Widera, Karshenas and Michael Switzenbaum, the new civil and environmental engineering chair.

“Construction engineering management is a field that’s developing,” Switzenbaum said. “We see a potential opportunity for Marquette to become a player in that arena.”

Switzenbaum is surveying construction companies to determine if this major is a viable investment.

“We’ve talked to several contractors and they’ve liked the program,” Karshenas said.

Karshenas has also formulated a tentative list of courses and a curriculum for the major and said it would not be difficult to add the major to the engineering curriculum.

“We only need to add a few more construction courses to our existing collection,” he said.

This, in addition to the community’s support, is encouraging to Switzenbaum and Karshenas, who both said the program could be implemented as early as two years from now.

“Marquette has unique attributes that will make the construction major a desirable program, such as successful programs (within engineering) and an urban location,” Switzenbaum said,

Once the major is instituted and in place for several years, the department will look into obtaining accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. About 100 schools nationwide have engineering majors, but only eight are ABET-accredited.

“ABET-accredited programs are looked at (more often) for employees,” Karshenas said.

An ABET accreditation would not only attract more businesses, it would also allow Marquette to compete with other accredited programs and to attract research funding, he said.

According to Karshenas, implementing the program would benefit the school in other ways.

“We could offer more choices in construction courses for students,” Karshenas said. The major “would also strengthen our civil engineering program.

“We will be able to attract students interested in construction.”

Alumna Julie Ledger agreed that this major would be beneficial to the university.

“This major could be beneficial if an undergraduate were interested in both construction and engineering,” said Ledger, who graduated in 1999 and is currently a project manager for Opus North Corporation. “Had I chosen a construction management major specifically, my options would have been limited…but for others who are confident of their path in life, the degree would be beneficial.”

Switzenbaum is still receiving feedback from construction companies but expects to propose the idea to the provost’s office soon.