Grad keeps pace with fast-changing construction industry

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Grad keeps pace with fast-changing construction industry

Tara Blondell

Despite the pressures of running a company and parenting two children, Tara Blondell earned a master’s degree in construction management through a demanding online education program. Photo: Jessica Slater/ASU

Tara Blondell has the building profession in her blood. Her great-grandfather started the family construction business more than a century ago. Ten years ago, after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, Blondell began running the Illinois-based company.

Langman Construction employs about 50 people, specializing in water and sewer systems projects, as well as paving and construction-site excavation work.

As a business owner working in a tough economy, and a mother of two who is also a body sculptor – training people in fitness and muscle toning – Blondell’s schedule was already taxing without taking on the rigors of trying to earn the master’s degree she had always wanted.

But the online construction management master’s degree program offered by Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction provided her an opportunity to make it happen. Blondell will receive her master’s in construction management this semester.

“It was very challenging at times,” Blondell says, “particularly at the end of fall when I was trying to finish up construction projects at work before our winter off-season, and trying to finish final projects due at school.”

The arduous undertaking had its benefits, she says. She began using knowledge gained in graduate courses to help run her company. And she was able to use work done by her company as the basis for class projects.

“Tara has the curiosity and discipline that makes her the perfect graduate student,” says Avi Wiezel, interim chair of the Del E. Webb School of Construction and associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Wiezel says Blondell displayed ”professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication” in using her business experience to make valuable contributions to the construction school’s research pursuits during her graduate studies, and in immediately applying what she learned to her company’s projects.

She also participated in a Construction Industry Institute research project designed to identify the variety of skills that project managers will be required to master in keeping pace with the fast-changing construction industry.

As part of that work, she presented her analyses of the causes of construction project problems to a research team of high-ranking managers of 17 major construction companies and building owners.

Blondell says earning her master’s degree – despite the pressures of business ownership and motherhood –has given her even more tools and strategies to handle the varied demands in her life.

“I can’t say enough about the professors in the program. They did everything to make this an outstanding experience,” she says.

As a result of her further education, Blondell says she is better prepared to focus on the business development and public relations efforts needed to expand her company’s success.

Her advice to anyone trying to earn an advanced degree through an online education program?

“Visit [the campus] once a semester to familiarize yourself with the faculty and take advantage of the face-to-face opportunities,” she says. “I did that and it really made my experience that much better.”

Contributed by Heather Beshears


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