UT Students Embark on New Concentration; Leads to New Construction Careers

KNOXVILLE — Students at the University of Tennessee who are interested in construction have a new opportunity to learn about a different side of the industry: the management side.

Starting this fall, students can pursue a concentration in construction technology in the Institute of Agriculture’s Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Before, those interested in construction were confined to the engineering aspect of the business.

“Not all students with an interest in construction want to be engineers,” said Eric Drumm, department head. “But before we started this program in construction science, the only option at UT was a construction concentration within the civil engineering degree. I’m excited for the opportunity to grow this program at UT. My hope is that this will serve the regional construction industry, and we will be producing graduates when the construction segment of the economy turns around.”

The program will evolve over time to include aspects of both vertical construction, such as buildings, and horizontal construction, such as roads, bridges and earthwork. Five students enrolled in this year’s class, but Drumm predicts a swell in growth due to the current level of interest and plans for an articulation agreement with Pellissippi State Community College.

“Construction science programs at other universities have enjoyed strong enrollment and job placement,” Drumm said. “And the local construction industry is very supportive.”

The concentration is designed to prepare students for entry into the very broad and diverse range of careers related to construction, such as project manager, estimator, supervisor or quality control.

For students like junior Justin Kramer, who planned on transferring to another university for a comparable program, the timing of the launch was perfect.

“UT Knoxville needs this degree because this is the type of hands-on career that students have been looking for, for a long time. I have always wanted a job in the construction field on the management side of the spectrum,” Kramer said.

The construction science field cuts across a wide swath of disciplines. Therefore, the program includes coursework from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Business Administration.

“Our program will provide exposure to concepts ranging from surveying and computer-aided drawing to geology and soil and water conservation,” Drumm said. “The business-related coursework leads to a minor in business administration.”

In addition to educating inside the classroom, the program aims to educate its students in the real world by connecting them with regional industry leaders. Already, students are attending local chapter meetings of the Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders and Contractors and the Construction Specifications Institute.

“The contractors in the Knoxville area are very excited about this program starting up and are showing us a lot of support,” Kramer said. “With this degree, I hope to get enough experience to go straight into the management side when I graduate. Through the classes we take and the internships that are offered to us, that should be a very realistic goal.”

Kramer said he enjoys construction because he enjoys seeing something built from the ground up. Perhaps for this same reason, he relishes being part of this startup program.

For more information on the program, visit http://bioengr.ag.utk.edu/students/tech_options.asp.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, wholmes7@utk.edu)

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