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Construction Engineering Management (CEM) welcomes 59 new graduate students as part of the fall 2019 cohort.

On August 23rd and 24th, CEM held an on-campus Boot Camp that serves as an orientation for new graduate students. The event was a time for students to visit the UAB campus, meet their fellow classmates the CEM faculty, and support staff. Attendees traveled to the campus from as far as California, Montana, Ohio, Missouri, and New York. CEM admits students during the spring and fall terms and currently has 147 active graduate candidates. Orientation marks the official start of a concentration in which collegians will take courses completely online over the next 19 months to earn a Master of Engineering (MEng) degree through the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (CCEE).


The incoming cohort of students who attended the fall 2019 event is shown in the picture above. This is the twenty-third Boot Camp hosted by CEM since its inception as an online program in 2009. Since then, CEM has continued to thrive with over 548 alumni and has received national recognition by U.S. News and World Report for excellence in online engineering education, by Online Masters for one of the best online master’s in construction management, and by the Affordable Colleges Online for affordability in online engineering education.

During the morning kickoff, CEM Director Wesley Zech and Assistant CEM Director Dianne Gilmer made warm introductions and congratulated the new students for their effort to attend the orientation. Gilmer told the on-campus group “We’ve noticed that students who attend boot camp are engaged in the program early on, are comfortable with the software, have met their group mates, and hit the ground running at the start of the semester.” Introductions continued as Dr. Zech asked each student to stand and say something interesting about themselves, tell where they are from, and their current employment. This is a great time for students to physically interact with their peers, to make connections with someone that could be a helpful class resource, and to network about job opportunities.

""Timothy Wick, Interim DeanAfterward, Timothy Wick, the Interim Dean of the School of Engineering welcomed the cohort saying “This is the beginning of a journey and we are glad that you are here. CEM is our signature professional program in the School of Engineering and has been going now for almost 12 years. We make an investment with faculty when they come to UAB because they are hired (full time) and must be paid – we do not have contract work, so we hope that they create programs that meet the demand. This program has exceeded all expectations and it is because of the outstanding faculty, so you are in good hands with Wesley, Dianne, Fran, and the other faculty. We have graduates from this program working all over the world and soon you can say that you are part of that. I hope that you enjoy boot camp and let me know if I can answer any questions or help in any way. Good luck and have fun!”

Fouad Fouad 500Fouad Fouad, P.E., Chair, CCEE DepartmentNext, Fouad Fouad, P.E., the Chair of the CCEE Department, greeted the students saying “CEM is the most successful program in the civil engineering department. It has grown tremendously over the past 10 years and we are so very proud of it. The program has a great history with Dianne and Fran being early initiators. We launched the CEM track in 2008 on-campus and moved to online instruction in 2009 to expand growth.”

Fouad also told students “You should be proud to be in the construction industry, as it impacts the entire U.S. economy by about $1.3 trillion per year and employs over 10 million people, so it is a great field. Our curriculum is very exciting and gets into the new learning trends such as building information modeling (BIM), green building, safety, and contract law. Lastly, we have great faculty, with Dr. Zech who came to UAB this year from Auburn University, Allen, Dianne, and many others. You should be very happy with the program and good luck!”

""Later, students received live course lectures from several CEM faculty members, as Zech addressed academic policies and course expectations. Gilmer discussed the project management course, and Christopher Waldron introduced the methods and materials class. On Saturday, Jason Thomas Kirby began reviewing course content for sustainability and green building practices, with a hands-on exercise to help students understand the importance of LEED design and development.

In addition, Fran Lefort and Allen Murphree provided hands-on training regarding the online technology of assignment submission, Canvas navigation, weekly course content, and Zoom live class sessions. Around mid-day, students and CEM staff socialized with each other while sharing a delicious meal, and then took a campus tour.

During the afternoon, students worked in groups and completed several tasks, as they received public speaking training from professional speaker and author Pat O’Mara. The training prepares graduates for their live “Icebreaker” presentations given on day two, which is one of many public speeches required during the CEM curriculum.

""Holistically, the Boot Camp experience is very powerful and covers many useful hands-on educational topics required for students to be successful. It is recorded and archived for those students who could not attend and for student’s future reference. Every cohort is unique and diverse in backgrounds and physical work locations. Since its inception, CEM is represented by students from 44 different states and 19 foreign countries, a geographic distribution that reflects the reputation and over 11-years of success in engineering education.

Overall, Boot Camp is well received by everyone. At the end of day two, students were asked by Zech what they liked most about attending orientation. The polling software used captured the student’s anonymous responses from their devices and a few are shown below:

  • “Getting familiar with the technology, meeting everyone, and public speaking tips.”
  • “I enjoyed connecting not only with my classmates but teachers on a personal level. I also loved the motivation I received to succeed not only in this program but in life.”
  • “The experience of meeting everyone and giving us an idea of what was to come and what was expected.”
  • “I enjoyed meeting with classmates and instructors. I enjoyed hearing everyone’s stories and details regarding their individual backgrounds and life experiences.”
  • “Meeting the instructors and students.”
  • “The direction that was given to navigate the systems like Canvass, Proctor U, etc.”
  • “Building relationships with faculty and classmates.”

According to Ms. Gilmer, “The CEM faculty and staff look forward to Boot Camp each fall and spring! Having the students come to Birmingham allows us the opportunity to welcome them to the UAB Family. Boot Camp weekend is the beginning of the students’ educational journey. One of the most beneficial aspects of Boot Camp is creating an engaged learning community and network for the new students. A real highlight is the student icebreaker presentations on Saturday morning. The candidates share their story about what prompted their decision to pursue the CEM graduate degree and what brought them to UAB. The fall 2019 cohort is comprised of many different educational and work history backgrounds. It’s amazing to see how these differences create a very collaborative and innovative culture in which the class can grow both professionally, as well as, personally. The CEM Faculty are very sensitive to the fact that the students are working professionals and make themselves available during evenings and on weekends. We strive to deliver relevant, real-world material that will aid the cohort in achieving their educational goals and to make them more marketable in a global economy.”