Above, GLCM students enjoying the Sydney Eye Skywalk Tour. From left: Faraaz Rab, Margeaux Goff, Amna Mahmud, Pedro Alvarez and Samuel Ball.
By Daniel Malsom
When he was a child, Chas Crump often spent his time playing with toy dump trucks. This January, he and 10 other construction management students had the opportunity to view the real, 300-ton payload variety in action at the Mt. Owen coal mine near Sydney, Australia.
The mine was one of more than nine construction sites and corporate offices the group visited while touring the cities of Sydney and Brisbane as part of the Global Leaders in Construction Management (GLCM) annual winter trip. An international trip is an essential feature of the two-year program, which prepares students to work in the increasingly global construction management industry.
“There is a lot of investment [in Australia] right now, including several of the largest construction projects in the world,” said Brent Young (MS 06), program director. “They are surviving what they call the GFC—Global Financial Crisis—better than many other places, mainly due to abundant natural resources.”
Ron Halicke, CEE senior, views the construction of 1 Central Park, $600 million dual residential towers being constructed by Watpac in the Chippendale neighborhood of Syndey. Photo by Pedro Alvarez, GLCM student.
The GLCM team visited a wide variety of projects, touring each site with knowledgeable project managers.
“Everyone who was there seemed like they were on top of their game … like they had at least 15 years of experience in the field,” Crump said.
One of Crump’s favorite site visits came on the first day of the trip, when the group toured 1 Central Park, a 623-unit apartment complex managed by Watpac Construction. Crump was impressed with the “heliostat,” a massive cantilever with aluminum panels designed to reflect sunlight off one apartment complex and down to a space otherwise hidden in the shadows of surrounding buildings.
Fellow GLCM student Ana Lucuta was impressed with the Lend Lease world headquarters and how the design facilitated human interaction. The building was split in half, with one side belonging to engineers and the other to financial workers. The middle of each floor included a kitchen and common area.
She also enjoyed the coal mine visit and the discussion with project managers there.
“Their traffic management system was very good,” Lucuta said. “They all had to do complete stops. When you’re driving past one of the huge dirt trucks and you’re not even coming up to the tires, it’s important to come to a complete stop.”
Brad Sugar (left), Project Manager for 1 Central Park, explains the project to GLCM students using an elaborate architectural model. Photo by Pedro Alvarez, GLCM student.
According to Young, trips like the one to Australia really help students understand the nature of construction work in a way that is not possible through classroom instruction. The cultural differences also made an impression on the GLCM students.
“What I noticed was that all of the project managers were praising and lifting up all of the people who reported back to them,” Lucuta said. She also noticed a multitude of family-oriented policies in place for construction workers, who “kept jobs in mind, but put family first.”
Travel expenses for GLCM international trips vary based on the choice of destination, how remote each project site is, and the number days spent at each location. The GLCM program defrays some of the cost, and corporate sponsors Turner Construction and the Walsh Group support the GLCM interns they hire each summer by sponsoring them on the international trips. Turner Construction sponsored Crump for the Australia trip, and CEE student Matt Sullivan is the next Turner Scholar. He will work for Turner as an intern this coming summer and will benefit from sponsorship on the January 2013 trip.
Students in the GLCM program enter as seniors and graduate with M.S. degrees two years later. In addition to participating in an international trip, they complete multi-disciplinary coursework and an independent project based on their career interests, go on domestic site visits, work at a summer internship after their senior year, and in general are given many opportunities to interact with industry. Graduates of the program are in high demand, Young said, with many GLCM students receiving multiple employment offers even during the toughest times of the recent construction recession.
Past international destinations have included China, where students toured the Olympic Village construction site; Panama, where they viewed the canal expansion; Dubai, where they saw the Burj Khalifa during its construction; and Canada, where they learned about oil sands mining. Young is confident that the hands-on, global experiences his students receive from the trips prepare them to become some of the brightest construction management leaders down the line. He is always looking for additional corporate sponsors to ensure the longevity of the program.
“After six years and 30-plus alumni, GLCM has proven its value both to our students and to our industry partners, who host, sponsor and hire our graduates,” Young said. “Our task now is to ensure that GLCM is sustainable for the long-term and many more students have this opportunity in the future. I’m confident that as the program ages, GLCM alumni will rise in industry, strengthening the GLCM brand even more.”
Crump graduates from the program this May and plans to return to work with Turner this summer. After three trips with GLCM, he no longer feels intimidated by the 300-ton payload trucks and nine-figure contracts that characterize the construction management industry.
“This program has prepared me to go out into the work force,” Crump said.
GLCM students (from left) Margeaux Goff, Chas Crump, Matthew Sullivan, Ryan Altemare and Ana Lucuta enjoy the beach near Brisbane. Photo by Pedro Alvarez, GLCM student.