NMU students assist with new housing project

Von Lanier

Efforts are being made by the NMU construction management program to promote student involvement with building the new residence halls on campus.

re-housing-jmThe new housing project, funded by EdR Collegiate Housing with building designs provided by Nuemann/Smith Architecture from Detroit, is open for students to seek an internship or a hands-on learning work experience prior to graduation.

Students like junior construction management major Daniel Hunter account for 1 of 75 on-site workers assisting with the new housing project. Hunter called his involvement a “really great experience” because he’s able to take concepts he learned in the classroom and apply them to the real world while still being on campus.

Hunter heard about the opportunity from classroom discussions and his academic advisor. He typically works with 1 to 4 other students looking at safety flaws on-site and completing any training involved with being part of the project.

He said it’s important for students to be a part of this project because they can take what they learn in class “right down the road” and look to see how it’s growing, what it takes to construct a building step by step and to see how different paperworks are filed. Hunter said he absolutely values the experience given projects like this don’t happen often in Marquette and young workers don’t have to travel to a metropolitan area to be involved with such a big project.

“I think it’s great for the university to be growing like this,” Hunter said. “It’s definitely great for construction students to have the opportunity to be involved with Walbridge to look at them as a company as well as a larger commercial industry.”

Heidi Blanck, assistant professor of tech and occupational sciences, presented the idea of student involvement with the new housing project and leads the charge with coordinating student opportunities between NMU and Walbridge Construction Management, who are the contractors for the new dorm facilities.

“It was just something that [faculty] got together and thought it would be really nice to have a formal approach to student involvement. We try to get our students on-site whenever possible,” Blanck said. “Being that this was a campus project, we thought a formal agreement would be really special for the students, Walbridge, EdR and for [Nuemann/Smith Architecture].”

NMU is one part of the Collaborative Educational Partnership, established in September, that also includes EdR, Nuemann/Smith and Walbridge. Students gain access to the construction site of the new dorms through signing up, attending and observing scheduled weekly meetings at the site, or by being escorted through on-site tours given daily.

“Walbridge has opened their doors to us every day,” Blanck said. “As long as there’s student interest, they can be on-site.”

Nearly 70 students have gone through orientations with contractors for the new residence hall since construction began 15 weeks ago at the end of July. One student has been hired by Walbridge as an intern, starting this month, and will grow into a full-time position with the company when he graduates in the spring. Walbridge is also looking to hire another student intern in the near future.

“Right now, they’re vetting resumes and things like that so they are looking to hire from our pool of candidates as well,” Blanck said.

Students with an interest in the housing project can sign up for on-site tours from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Blanck works directly with the Walbridge project manager to coordinate sessions where a safety engineer provides training to students on-site. She also works to communicate visits for students as well as the times for showings. Two training sessions have been held so far where students were provided with the proper training and basics for wearing safety gear on-site.

Blanck said NMU is working with Walbridge to find more allotment times for visits during the week. Students become aware of visiting times by announcements made in class, emails, or by signing up at Blanck’s office. She encourages students to sign up at her office so she can know ahead of time who’s going on-site and can ensure the proper training requirements are met.

Blanck said it’s important for students to have opportunities like this anytime they can get on-site to reinforce what they learn in the classroom.

“We can try to simulate as much as we can in classroom and labs but when they can be in a real site, seeing the application of what we’re doing in the classroom, it really helps bring home the message and it helps make them understand what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” she added.

Chad Stahl, project manager for Walbridge, said the hope is that students will realize the potential in a successful career of construction management including roles such as project manager, project engineer, project superintendent and roles in safety.

Walbridge strives to engage with all its clients. In this case, we’re proud to serve NMU students in our process of construction management,” Stahl said.

He said the partnership with NMU and its construction management department is what helps Walbridge to engage the selected student helpers and interns in the construction site meetings and site walks.

“[We] believe it gives NMU students first-person perspective of how a 100-year-old Michigan construction organization professionally plans and builds quality student housing,” Stahl said.

“Walbridge is proud to partner with the university and local contractors in this exciting new project for NMU students.”

The housing project includes the addition of six new dorms to the NMU campus.

The interior finishes will feature a lodge with a kitchenette in the southernmost part of the complex—to be used as a 24-hour study space, polished concrete floors, a stacked stone fireplace and the traditional decor of green and gold splashed throughout with a dark wood color palette for dormitory suites. The first two buildings are projected for
occupancy by next fall.