Cim Program Patrons Earn Extra Credit

The approach of fall marks the beginning of a new academic term for aspiring concrete industry professionals, as 500-plus students enter or resume Concrete

The approach of fall marks the beginning of a new academic term for aspiring concrete industry professionals, as 500-plus students enter or resume Concrete Industry Management (CIM) programs in four locations nationwide. The business-intensive curriculum, awarding students a four-year bachelor of science degree in Concrete Industry Management, continues to grow; and, those close to the program at one of its newest extensions, California State University-Chico, are quick to credit industry patrons for that success. According to Cal State Chico Dean of Engineering Kenneth Derucher, the CIM program would not exist without patrons’ support.

To date, the concrete industry’s overall investment in CIM has topped $2 million. After a 1996 launch with two students at program-chartering Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro), CIM has expanded to Arizona State University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Cal State Chico. A fifth location at Texas State University-San Marcos is set to open in Spring 2009. CIM has seen 200-plus graduates since the program’s inception and has a current enrollment of 528 at the four schools. Industry officials estimate that employers across the concrete business could absorb more than 500 CIM graduates per year.

Besides donating funds to implement and maintain the program, patrons are instrumental to ensuring students get a well-rounded education. Notes CIM National Steering Committee (NSC) Interim Executive Director David Vickers, CIM Patrons Û a wide variety of people from industry companies, including former graduates Û continue to play a major role in supporting and advancing the CIM program by helping provide concrete professionals, association leaders and industry consultants, who work with administrators to ensure that CIM graduates are fully prepared for a career in the concrete industry.

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, observes Cal State Chico’s Derucher. Instead of just looking at the university to fill the void, however, industry companies, individuals and associations have stepped in as partners to help develop, refine and expand CIM offerings.

His northern California school was the beneficiary of a dedicated effort by retired Cemex Regional Vice President for Cement Sales (West Region) Douglas Guerrero, who now chairs the Cal State Chico CIM Patrons. During my career, I would get countless phone calls from headhunters and industry colleagues looking for qualified people, says Guerrero, and we simply weren’t grooming people in the universities and colleges to fill the need. Though I was involved in several industry associations, where this was invariably a hot topic, taking the next step was a big move.

After observing the gearing up of the CIM Program at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in 1994 Û prior to its formal launch two years later Û Guerrero and other concrete industry leaders set out to bring such a program to the West Coast, since California’s concrete market is the nation’s largest. An initial committee of 10 industry leaders Û from a broad spectrum, encompassing ready mixed, concrete products, cement, aggregates and construction sectors Û voted to incorporate and established its own nonprofit 501(c)(3) Educational Foundation. The committee subsequently embarked on a fund-raising campaign, obtaining $1 million in pledges from industry companies, associations and individuals. The success of that effort led to the CIM program introduction at Cal State Chico in 2005.

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

In addition to supporting the program itself, patrons provide funds for scholarships granted to all CIM students, as well as monies needed for upgrading the concrete lab, which will serve as a facility both for teaching and applied research to help further the industry. The Cal State State CIM Patrons Group, in partnership with the University, aims to help defray the lab’s $1.4 million estimated cost; at present, $279,000 is in the coffers.

Echoing NSC’s David Vickers, Cal State Chico CIM Program Director Kristin Cooper-Carter emphasizes that patrons’ contributions go well beyond funding to classroom participation as guest lecturers, adding valuable perspectives and a real-world industry view. Students love the interaction, she affirms, as patrons share their expertise and business skills.

Beyond qualified graduates to fill crucial positions, Cooper-Carter asserts, CIM patrons’ investment will yield the benefit to industry of vital research. In conjunction with MTSU, for example, Chico has a research grant from the National Science Foundation; and, a project is underway with Caltrans, California Integrated Waste Management, and Portland Cement Association to determine the scope of concrete reuse and recycling throughout the U.S. Additionally, Chico’s Iron Canyon Fish Water research project involves concrete design for new and retrofit applications with particular emphasis on protecting endangered species.

Not only is the data beneficial to private and public entities and the experience for students phenomenal, says Cooper-Carter, but the model of dialogue between all of these entities is a good example for those in training. Further, as one of four CIM schools, any research we conduct can be replicated at other schools to verify geographic variances Û a great benefit to the global concrete industry. Patrons also recognize the potential impact of our work on sustainable and green issues, and we believe CIM will help guide the future related to these trends.