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Construction Management Students Build Community Ties by Giving Back

Posted Nov. 15, 2010

It's not every day that students can make a family's dreams come true while gaining experience in their career field of choice. For construction management majors at Kent State University, it happens more often than you might think.

special feature construction inside
The construction management program
gives students practical experience.

Students in the Construction Management Student Organization (CMSO) volunteer at least 40 hours each year with groups like Habitat for Humanity of Canton/Stark County. Due in part to their hard work, nine new homes were dedicated on Oct. 28 in Massillon.

"The Kent State construction management program is so special because we have the opportunity of working on a Habitat for Humanity house from start to finish," says Alyssa Gwirtz, community service chairperson for CMSO. "We not only get to experience building a house from the ground up, but we also are able to connect with a family in need."

Students work on houses most Saturdays from September through early December and then again from late March through the end of the spring semester. Several of the students involved with CMSO are currently working on a house in Waynesburg. They started with the foundation and will try to get as far as possible until the winter weather stops them.

Construction management, a concentration within the bachelor's of technology program, prepares students for managing construction jobs. The program is unique because most schools focus on just construction, without the management concentration. Kent State is one of just four schools in Ohio to offer construction management.

Many of the program's 100 majors get involved with the CMSO to gain hands-on experience in the field. The community service work allows students to give back to the community while also adding to their resumes.

"Every construction company that I have interacted with participates in community service, and they have commended our students for being so active in volunteering," says Joe Karpinski, faculty advisor for the construction management program.

Last year CMSO logged 1,007 hours of community service and was named the Kent State student organization with the most volunteer hours logged. Karpinski and 15 construction management students also earned the Spirit of Service Award for volunteering at least 40 hours in the community.

The group's work with Habitat for Humanity extends beyond local chapters. Students have joined forces with Habitat for Humanity of New Orleans for the past three winter breaks. At an annual golf outing each May, students raise money to fund the trip. That fundraiser pays the way for eight students to travel to New Orleans, along with generous contributions from construction organizations around Ohio, such as the Construction Specifications Institute of Akron, Mechanical Contractors Association of Cleveland and the Home Builders Association of Akron.

"The trips also allow some of our students, who might have never have had the chance to build a house themselves, to gain some real-world, hands-on construction experience," says Shawn Samek, president of CMSO.

In addition to working with Habitat for Humanity, CMSO also volunteers with Adopt-a-Highway and Relay for Life. Last year the group was one of only two out of 92 teams that raised more than $5,000 for the American Cancer Society.

On Nov. 6, students volunteered for Rebuilding Together, an initiative that is part of Kent Senior Citizen Day. Karpinski says his students installed grab bars and some basement windows in homes.

"I think the most rewarding part of being involved in community service is knowing that I can personally help someone in the community, while gaining skills in my field of study and bettering myself as a person," says Gwirtz.

For more information, visit www.ksucm.com.

By Carrie Drummond