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SDSU moving forward to offer bachelor's degree in concrete industry management

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South Dakota State University’s Jerome J. Lohr College of Engineering will soon offer a bachelor’s degree in concrete industry management. The degree announcement comes after the CIM National Steering Committee and the North Central Region patrons selected SDSU after an approximate six-month selection process. The South Dakota Board of Regents approved a memorandum of understanding between the entities at its December meeting, allowing work to continue on the new degree.

The NSC and the NCR patron groups are combining resources to provide SDSU approximately $1.5 million over five years to develop the degree program and assist in employing a CIM program director, recruiter and laboratory manager.

“We are excited to be selected as the university to fill the needs of the concrete industry, not only in South Dakota, but throughout the entire North Central Region," said SDSU President Barry Dunn. "The program supports our mission as a land-grant university of addressing workforce needs in the communities of South Dakota and beyond. These Jackrabbits will become knowledgeable in concrete technology and techniques, capable of managing people and systems, skilled in technical sales and expected to advance to industry leadership positions.”

The CIM program was developed in 1995 at Middle Tennessee State University as a public/private partnership between the university and the concrete industry. Expansions of the CIM program, over the past 25 years have included the New Jersey Institute of Technology, California State University-Chico and Texas State University.

Thor Becken, NCR patrons chairman, said the concrete industry recognized the need for the CIM program in the Midwest. Once the decision was made to develop a CIM program in the region, it took two years of planning and gaining industry member support, before a search committee began interviewing various universities about potential interest in offering a CIM degree.

Eugene Martineau, CIM NSC executive director
Eugene Martineau, CIM NSC executive director

“The selection committee made up of NSC and NCR members overwhelmingly agreed that SDSU was the most logical and best choice for us,” said Eugene Martineau, CIM NSC executive director. “SDSU’s prior experience with public/private partnerships, combined with how the Lohr College of Engineering stresses developing programs that engage industry needs, were critical in our decision making. It was obvious working with industry is not something that is new to the university. During our visit to SDSU, it was evident the president and provost down through the dean and department heads were all-in for establishing a CIM program.”
Teresa Hall, who leads SDSU’s Department of Construction and Operations Management, is currently working with representatives of the NSC and NCR in the development of the curriculum. CIM has nine core courses and students are required to earn a minor in either marketing or business management.

“The CIM degree is really a nice fit for us. If you look at a Venn diagram, you have construction management, you have operations management and the CIM degree fills that niche in the middle, so it works,” Hall said. “While the degree is very focused on a particular material, it’s one that goes hand in hand with construction, since concrete is used in virtually every form of construction, regardless if it’s heavy construction, residential or commercial. In operations and supply chains, we’ve seen how Gage Brothers in Sioux Falls creates precast panels in a manufacturing facility and ships them all over for use. It’ll be a degree with a wide range of applications.”

Becken said the program is intended to develop graduates who possess both technical knowledge and management expertise capable of being hired into entry- or middle-level management positions. The longer-term goal of CIM is to develop the future leaders of the concrete industry.

“That’s important because our industry, like many, is aging. Higher-level managers are starting to retire. We’re looking for next generation of leaders to come in,” Becken said. “I think most people would be surprised to learn about the variety of career paths available within our industry. There are many professional, skilled and technical positions where employees get to see tangible results of their work.”

According to Art Thompson, NCR site selection committee chairman, there were multiple career openings last year for every CIM graduate.

“These jobs include substantial starting salaries as well as full complements of benefits,” Thompson said. “For any student who is considering a career in a construction related industry, I would highly encourage them to learn more about the CIM program.”

Hall noted Jason Reaves ’99, executive vice president of the American Concrete Pavement Association’s South Dakota chapter, deserves a lot of credit for contacting his alma mater when he learned about the National Steering Committee’s expansion plans.

After that notification, the college went into action.

“We are in an interesting place in that within in the Lohr College and the Department of Architecture, we have everything on the design build continuum,” Hall said. “I see there are a lot of great things happening here and there is no reason this degree program shouldn’t flourish.”