the master of building construction program’s new look
hat’s what they call themselves—the seven young women who began the Master of Building Construction (MBC) program this summer: hard hats and high heels. They are part of a cohort of seventeen students, and the largest number of women ever welcomed into the MBC program at one time. If you spend any length of time with this group, you’ll also call them smart, engaged, and enthusiastic. They positively radiate excitement for the MBC program. One of the strengths of Auburn’s MBC program is that it is aimed at students from both construction and non-construction related backgrounds, and this group is a good example. Only one woman in the group has a degree in project management: Congwen Kan from Tianjin, China. Ashley Byers, Julya Welch, Erika Crews, and Caroline Sabo all developed an interest in building construction through electives they took in Auburn’s Environmental Design program that encourages electives and minors in College of Architecture, Design and Construction programs such as building construction, community planning, and industrial design. Alex Romigh is an industrial design graduate, another CADC program, and Kasie Elston graduated in Human Science’s interior design program. They are quick to agree on other strengths of the MBC program: first and foremost, the caring faculty. “They are so willing to share their expertise and what they know,” says Kasie. “They care about your success and want you to be totally prepared.” As Erika explains, “It feels like everything in class is applicable and can also be used in more than one way.”
The group also appreciates the emphasis the program places on presentation skills and being knowledgeable about their subject. Working in groups and collaborations is another strength. “We work in teams all the time,” says Julya. “Ones that you don’t get to pick, and that’s important.” They also appreciate the caring staff in the McWhorter School of Building Science. Cassandra Calloway keeps them well informed on jobs and internships and helps them make industry connections through the Career Expos each semester. Joline Landry (aka Mama Jo) coordinates all the classes but, more importantly, is a good listener and counselor. Says Kasie, “She’s very caring—our personal therapist!” Each student has different plans for using her MBC. Congwen, who was attracted to the MBC program’s BIM applications, hopes to work in virtual design and construction (VDC) or possibly get a PhD. Alex is interviewing for a pre-construction internship to see if she would like to go that route. Erika is interested in estimating and BIM. Ashley likes scheduling and budgeting. While Kasie loves structures and wants to use her interior design background in intelligent design. Green building and sustainability in a project management context interests Julya. They all agree, however, that Survey Camp was tough and made them realize that they didn’t want to be superintendents or in the field! They also agree that being women in field of building construction is an advantage because they bring a different way of thinking and organizing that balances well with the men. “Plus, says Kasie, “We’re going to be well trained and know what we’re talking about.” While the MBC program is challenging, they point out that one of the highlights has been going through it together. They motivate each other, look out for each other, and enjoy calling themselves “hard hats and high heels.” They are unanimous in their agreement that the MBC program is a great environment, and they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. “We love the program!” they say together—unprompted.
Cover and article images by Melissa Humble, AU Photographic Services