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Aiming to Elevate Construction Education at ASU

Associate Professor Jim Ernzen’s responsibility in a new endowed professorship role in the Del E. Webb School of Construction is to enrich undergraduates’ educational experience by strengthening their connections to the school’s alumni and other industry leaders, and to get them involved in student construction competitions and conferences on a national level. Credit: Tim Trumble, Arizona State University

Source: Arizona State University

Associate Professor Jim Ernzen found his professional passion more than 23 years ago when he began teaching construction management at Arizona State University.

What he realized even then is how much learning students need beyond classroom instruction to get a complete education and a solid jump-start on their careers.

Especially vital to students’ success, Ernzen says, are mentorships, internships to get firsthand job experience, research training and connections to leaders in the industry.

Personal commitment and financial backing by benefactors outside the university are critical to providing students those opportunities. But attracting such support requires focused relationship-building and fostering a strong sense of institutional purpose to sustain the allegiance of those supporters.

So now, in addition to his teaching, Ernzen will lead the charge to achieve these goals as the first PENTA Building Group Professor for Construction in the Del E. Webb School of Construction.

Ernzen’s overall directive in the position is to enhance the experience of undergraduate students in the school, which is part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

Strengthening Students’ Connection with Alumni and Industry

Ernzen will work with faculty advisers of student organizations to increase student interaction with alumni and industry and support students’ participation in industry events, including national conferences.

Additionally, Ernzen will help form student teams to enter national and international collegiate competitions sponsored by prominent construction industry associations and institutes — and provide mentorship for those teams.

His to-do list also includes helping students develop closer relationships with alumni and industry professionals to raise their awareness of Del E. Webb School’s continuing growth and broadening academic and research excellence.

These relationships will enhance students’ learning experiences, giving them invaluable insight into the field.

“We need many people in the industry to share their knowledge and skills with our students,” said Associate Professor Anthony Lamanna, chair of the construction management program. “Many are alumni and program supporters who are pioneers in new construction methods, procedures and businesses. We need to ensure our students can effectively learn from them, and Jim is excellent at creating and maintaining that link between them and our current students.”

Ehrets’ Contributions are Raising Construction School’s Stature

Support for Ernzen’s new endeavor comes through ASU construction management alumnus Jeff Ehret, CEO of the PENTA Building Group, and his wife, Mary.

The Ehrets’ contributions have been helping to fuel the advance of ASU’s construction education programs for most of the past two decades.

Most notably, the PENTA Building Group has funded a program since 2005 that annually awards a scholarship to a student, providing up to four years of financial assistance to pursue an undergraduate degree in construction management or construction engineering at ASU.

The Ehrets also established an endowment that provides funds annually for students to participate in regional and national competitions. The PENTA Building Group was also a significant donor to the capital campaign to fund construction of the College Avenue Commons building where the Del E. Webb School is housed.

Ready to Take Educational Endeavors to the Next Level

Professor Ram Pendyala, interim director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, is confident Ernzen is up to the task.

“Our students have greatly benefited from the learning opportunities, educational experiences and mentoring that Jim has tirelessly provided over the past few decades,” Pendyala said. “So, we are looking forward to benefiting further from his dedication to developing the next generation of construction professionals in his new role as the PENTA Building Group Professor.”

With the PENTA Building Group endowed professorship, Ernzen joins a distinguished group of Del E. Webb School faculty members. Anthony Lamanna is the Sundt Professor of Alternative Delivery Methods & Sustainable Development and G. Edward Gibson Jr. is the Sunstate Chair of Construction and Engineering.

The school also has an endowed AGC Lecturer position held by Barry Kutz and funded by the Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors, as well as an endowed Beavers Heavy Construction Chair position named in honor of longtime school supporters Bill Ames and Wink Ames. The chair is held by Professor of Practice Wylie Bearup. Kutz and Bearup have each had decades-long leadership roles in their construction industry careers.

These endowed positions are building the foundations on which the school can achieve increasingly robust educational excellence and further establish a legacy of impact on the construction industry.

Read more at Arizona State University.

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