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CIM Patrons’ Support Key to Calif. Program Success

Tue August 05, 2008 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

As the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program — a business intensive curriculum that awards students with a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Concrete Industry Management — continues to grow, those close to the program at California State University, Chico, are quick to credit industry patrons for the success.

To date, the national concrete industry has invested more than $2 million in CIM. Although currently supporting nearly 300 students, the concrete industry believes it could absorb more than 500 CIM graduates per year.

“CIM Patrons — which include a wide variety of people from industry companies including former graduates — continue to play a major role in helping support and advance the CIM program by helping provide concrete professionals, association leaders and industry consultants who work with administrators to make sure CIM graduates are fully prepared for a career in the concrete industry,” said David L. Vickers, interim executive director of the CIM National Steering Committee (NSC).

According to Kenneth Derucher, dean of engineering at Chico State University, one of the program’s newest additions, the CIM program wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the patrons. In addition to donating funds to start and sustain the program, the Patrons Group is instrumental to ensuring students get a well-rounded education.

“The concrete industry is looking to the CIM program to develop the workforce that’s going to assume the roles of the concrete professionals who will be retiring during the next 10 to 15 years,” said Derucher. “But, instead of just looking at the university to fill the void, industry companies, individuals and associations have stepped in as partners to help develop, refine and grow the program.”

Chico State was fortunate to have the enthusiasm and dedicated effort of Douglas K. Guerrero, a 40-year industry veteran and retired CEMEX regional vice president for Cement Sales (West Region). Guerrero, now chairman of the Chico State CIM Patrons, had long recognized a need for developing young people.

“During my career, I would get countless phone calls from headhunters and industry colleagues looking for qualified people,” said Guerrero, “and we simply weren’t grooming people in the universities and colleges to fill the need. I was involved in several industry associations and this was a hot topic for all of them. But, taking the next step was a big one.”

Guerrero watched carefully as the CIM Program was born in 1994 at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and he and other concrete industry leaders set out to bring such a program to the West Coast since California has one of the largest concrete markets in the United States. An initial committee of 10 industry leaders — spanning a broad representation including ready-mix, concrete products, cement, aggregates and construction — voted to incorporate and they established their own non-profit 501(c)(3) Educational Foundation. Then, the committee went to work seeking donations from industry companies, associations and individuals. One million dollars was pledged to establish the program.

“We were fortunate to have started when the market demand for concrete and concrete products was at a record high,” said Guerrero. “To date, we have 36 corporate Patrons, and our list is continuing to grow.

The initial efforts were successful and the program was launched at Chico in 2005. In addition to funding the program itself, the patrons are providing funds for scholarships granted to all of the students in the program, as well as monies needed for the concrete lab improvement project. Partnering with the University, the Patron’s Group hopes to contribute to the $1.4 million dollar estimated cost of the lab. To date, $279,000 has been raised. The lab will not only be a teaching facility, but also a place where applied research can be carried out to help further the industry.

Kristin Cooper-Carter, CIM program director at Chico, said the patrons’ contributions go well beyond funding to also adding a lot of value in the classroom as guest lecturers, providing students with fresh perspectives and a glimpse at the industry they wouldn’t get otherwise.

“The patrons share their expertise and business skills, and give students the opportunity to understand the industry and what opportunities are out there,” said Cooper-Carter. “Students love the interaction. And, we believe that showing the students that the industry is involved in this program really makes a difference.”

And, Cooper-Carter believes the industry will benefit from their benevolence not only by being able to hire qualified graduates, but also from the research currently being conducted. For example, in conjunction with MTSU, Chico State has a research grant from the National Science Foundation. Chico State also is working with CAL Trans and California Integrated Waste Management as well as the Portland Cement Association (PCA) on a project that entails determining the scope of concrete reuse and recycling throughout the nation. Other research projects include the Iron Canyon Fish Water project, which involves the design and application of concrete to fix existing and create new structures, taking into consideration a variety of endangered species.

“These research projects are extremely important to the industry,” said Cooper-Carter. “Not only is the data beneficial to private and public entities and the experience for the students phenomenal, but the model of such a dialogue between all of these entities sets a good example for the students. Further, as one of four CIM schools, any research we conduct can be replicated at other schools to verify geographic variances, which is of great benefit to the global concrete industry. Having universities conducting research or replicating industry research adds credibility that has been lacking. The patrons also recognize the benefit to our work on sustainable and green issues and we believe CIM will help guide the future related to these trends.”

“With increasing demand for industry professionals, we have taken the course to improve the education and training of managerial-grade employees with our involvement in the CIM process,” said Guerrero. “We feel this is one of our very best ways to give back to the very industry where we’ve spent our careers.”

About CIM

Receiving tremendous support from the concrete industry, the CIM program was the first of its kind in the United States — a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in Concrete Industry Management. The need for such a program was recognized in 1994 and was put into action by the concrete industry. The end-result was a partnership between the concrete industry and Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) to develop the CIM program, implementing it with its first two students in 1996. In addition to MTSU, the program has expanded to Arizona State University; California State University, Chico; and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The goal of the program is to produce broadly educated, articulate graduates grounded in basic construction management, who are knowledgeable of concrete technology and techniques and are able to manage people and systems as well as promote products or services related to the concrete industry. It entails a broad range of courses, from English and history to science and mathematics. A series of required business courses such as finance, marketing, management and business law also are taken throughout the length of the program.

The concrete-specific courses teach the fundamentals of concrete, properties and testing, concrete construction and more. All of these courses provide much more than what is simply in the text — they emphasize problem solving, quality assurance and customer satisfaction. They utilize practical case studies and an internship to make sure the student obtains real-world experience essential to starting a successful career. Additional opportunities for growth include on-campus socials and other organized events providing industry networking and professional development.

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