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School of Construction builds up its academic repertoire

September 14, 2007

Construction industry demand for a more educated workforce – and more highly trained educators – is driving Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction to expand its academic programs.

The school, a part of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, is now offering a Ph.D. program in construction management and an online master’s degree program.

The new doctoral program is a response to the need for more university-level construction educators, says Matt Eicher, manager of industry relations for the school.

“Increasingly, faculty positions require a Ph.D.,” he says. “Our program is a way to help establish a pipeline of educators for the country’s 140 or more construction management programs.”

Offering a doctoral degree in construction management also provides a long-term benefit for undergraduate construction education.

“By conducting research, academics in this area will create new knowledge and feed it back into the undergraduate programs,” Eicher says

The doctoral program is designed to enroll up to 25 students within the first four years. The first student enrolled has begun studies this semester. Additional students have applied for the Spring 2008 semester.

The online master’s degree program, administered by ASU’s Center for Professional Development, has begun offering studies in construction management and facility management.

The program is a response to a growing number of professionals returning to school to gain specific knowledge, Eicher says. It is endorsed by the Associated General Contractors of America, the nation’s oldest and largest trade association representing the construction industry.

“The online option is feasible for someone who doesn’t intend to go on to get a doctoral degree in construction, but needs the knowledge to advance their careers,” Eicher says.

The school expects to initially attract at least 40 students to the program, he says.

The School of Construction is seeing significant growth in overall enrollment. Freshman enrollment for the fall 2007 semester has increased to 49 from 30 freshman a year ago.

Female freshman enrollment in the construction school has increased from four last fall to 14 this year – more than three times higher than in any other year.

Much of the success has been attributed to Melissa Luna, the school’s student recruiter. Luna was hired after Del E. Webb alumnus Jeff Ehret, president of the Las Vegas-based PENTA Building Group, donated $200,000 to the construction program in November 2006 to strengthen recruitment efforts.

“We appreciate the need for construction managers in the industry and want to ensure that we do our part to recruit and educate prospective and current ASU undeclared students on the numerous opportunities in our field,” Luna says.

“We will continue to focus on increasing the number of quality first-time freshmen students and at the same time strive to diversify our applicant pool. Through our partnerships and events, we hope to attract students from secondary schools, community colleges, and our community who will be successful in our program,” she says.

“Successful students will be one of out best resources for sending the message to community members, teachers, counselors, parents, and prospective students that majoring in construction is a viable and rewarding option,” Luna says.

For more information about the Del E. Webb School of Construction’s Ph.D. program in construction management, or the online master’s program, contact Avi Wiezel, graduate program director, at [email protected] or (480) 965-4121.

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