Building More Than Dreams

Gretchen Olson had been working for a year as a drafter when she decided she wanted more options to move up in the construction industry.

She decided to pursue a four-year degree in construction management from MSUM.

“It seemed that it would fit me,” she says. “I enjoyed what I was doing, but I wanted to be part of something bigger.”

Olson chose MSUM because she was impressed with the faculty, all of whom have experience in the construction industry. She also was intrigued by all the ways she could apply the degree.

“There’s so much more to construction management than hammers and nails,” she said. “Until I started in this program, I didn’t realize how many different types of people are needed to put a building together.”

MSUM’s construction management degree can be completed either online or on campus, depending on the student’s needs, said Rachel Axness, associate professor in the program. It was the first program in Minnesota to be ACCE accredited.

MSUM graduates with the degree have accepted roles as varied as project managers, building superintendents, safety coordinators, safety inspectors, project schedulers and estimators. The program has a 100% job placement rate.

“We hear from the industry that our students are well-prepared and ready to contribute,” Axness said.

In addition to completing coursework, students must secure an internship before graduation. Many of them are offered jobs after that experience.

As a student Olson interned at TF Powers Construction Company in Fargo. While there she shadowed a project manager and fell in love with the work. She attended project meetings and offered ideas for solving issues. She traveled to construction sites and monitored progression. She practiced putting together proposals and estimating costs.

By the time her internship was completed, TF Powers asked her to work part-time throughout her senior year. She was offered a full-time job after graduation in 2019.

Every day her job is different, she said, as she works to make sure construction projects meet the expectations of the owner.

The projects Olson has overseen have ranged from a building on a military base to a school addition to a neighborhood park. Each one requires her to communicate clearly and keep everybody involved on task.

“A lot of these projects are going to be around for a long time. People will enjoy and use them, and I get to be part of it,” she said.

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