From March 7-13, 2021, Minnesota State University Moorhead is uplifting women making an impact in the community during Women in Construction Week.
Rachel Axness, MSUM Construction Management program coordinator and co-chair of the Professional Management Department, says if a career in construction management interests someone, they shouldn’t hesitate to jump in. Her experience working in the industry taught her that being the only woman on the team isn't a hindrance to advancing your career.
“I was allowed to take on as much responsibility as I could, ask questions along the way, and work hard,” she said. “Overall, the construction industry is supportive of anyone willing to work hard and be productive.”
MSUM’s Construction Management program, offered entirely online or in person, has seen women make up to 14 percent of its enrolled students. Over the last 10 years, the average percentage of female students hovers around 6 percent.
While construction may be viewed as a male-only industry, women at MSUM are proving they’re more than capable of leading and educating the next generation. It’s one thing to see women working alongside you; it’s even more powerful for young women to see reflections of themselves in roles as project leads, educators and mentors.
"Both Rachel Axness and Norma Anderson were mentors for me through my time at MSUM pursuing a Construction Management degree and still are to this day," said Kalley Huhne, a 2019 graduate. "They both wanted all their students to succeed and pushed them so they would. Having two female instructors in the program helped me because it gave me the reassurance that I could also work in the construction industry."
Axness, also a 2006 graduate of MSUM’s Construction Management program, was mentored by several women while in college. One mentor, Brenda Norris, now serves as MSUM’s executive director of facilities management. In her current and previous roles, Norris has overseen the construction or renovation of nearly half of MSUM’s academic buildings, including the Hagen Hall remodel for MSUM’s BS in Nursing program, design of the Weld Hall renovation and the predesign for the revitalization of Nemzek Hall.
“Construction has always been a male-dominated profession but there are many opportunities for women,” Norris said. “Seeing women in both management and educational positions should encourage other women to join the industry. Women can offer fresh perspectives and improved teamwork on construction projects.”
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More Stories from Dragons
Austin Mehr ’21 wasn’t sure a four-year degree was for him. A presentation at M State by a Minnesota State University Moorhead construction management faculty member inspired him to complete his four-year degree at MSUM.
Jason Flack '02 knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career in the construction industry. He enjoyed the labor but couldn’t see himself swinging a hammer for the rest of his life.