Students volunteer for construction

CMSA construction:The Construction Management Student Organization sets up plans for a construction project.:Courtesy photo

CMSA construction:The Construction Management Student Organization sets up plans for a construction project.:Courtesy photo

Brett Johnson

Volunteer work and a major competition are on the horizon for the Construction Management Student Organization, a student-run organization based at Sacramento State.

The Construction Management Student Organization is involved in a variety of construction-related community projects and industry functions throughout the year. The student association is composed entirely of Sacramento State construction management majors, and strives to improve the overall educational experience for students in the program.

Paul MacClanahan, president of the Construction Management Student Organization, references the work that the organization does with nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together Sacramento as being some of the most significant.

Rebuilding Together Sacramento has reconstruction days twice a year, in April and October, called “Rebuilding Dreams.” On these days, Rebuilding Together organizes groups of volunteers in an attempt to improve dilapidated houses in low-income neighborhoods.

The free home-repair services are granted to applicants based on the condition of their residence.

More than 800 volunteers a year participate in repainting damaged walls, renovating sections of houses, landscaping yards and installing safety modifications for the disabled. Since its creation in 1991, Rebuilding Together has performed repairs on more than 1,980 homes in the Sacramento area.

“The students’ assistance with the restoration work that Rebuilding Together does is an example of the types of projects that members of our organization work on year-round,” MacClanahan said. “We’re doing the physical labor, but we also make sure to involve ourselves in the management side of it.”

During the “Rebuilding Dreams” event in April, the Construction Management Student Organization elects a house captain who directs a team of untrained volunteer workers at a residence selected by Rebuilding Together. Having the opportunity to arrange and lead a team in reconstruction allows the students to apply what they have learned about construction management in the classroom in a real working environment.

“They’re doing work that has a huge impact on the community,” said Cindy Spackman, program and development director of Rebuilding Together Sacramento. “Some of these families were having to resort to heating their house using a stove &- then our volunteers came in and installed central heating and air conditioning.”

Students from the association work next to the volunteers, doing work for no monetary compensation whatsoever. While many of the club’s members are in attendance for “Rebuilding Dreams,” participation isn’t a requirement.

“The organization puts on various events and schedules projects that students have the option to partake in or not. Most of the time students in the association are working on their own through individual internships,” said Chris Cormier, former president of the Construction Management Student Organization.

“Students who are working as interns with local construction companies are paid for the work they do, but it is not connected to the student association,” Cormier said. All the student association would do with respect to getting students paid (during my tenure) was help spread the word when companies were looking for interns.”

Aside from internship opportunities, members of the Construction Management Student Organization participate in annual construction competitions.

“There are projects that we take on during the year, but the overarching goal of the organization is really to have construction management students compete every year in the large Associated Schools of Construction competition in Reno, Nev.,” MacClanahan said.

The competition starts with students receiving complex construction project plans and contract documents that competitors have no previous knowledge about. Each team is confined to a hotel room, in which they work for 20 hours non-stop. The following day, the teams present their answers to the problem statements in front of a panel of judges.

“There are many students that get jobs immediately following their participation in this competition. It’s a great way to showcase your construction management skills to potential employers,” MacClanahan said.

Each team is expected to raise $5,000 for a spot in the competition. For the past six years, the students have been able to attend because of the financial support provided by the nonprofit organization Sacramento Construction Management Education Function. The organization operates through online auctions, donations and fundraisers.

“The Construction Management Student Organization and its five elected officers are meant to act as liaisons between the construction management students and the Sacramento Construction Management Education Function,” MacClanahan said. “They help students materially, as well as financially, through faculty support and development.”

The competition takes place Feb. 16-19. The Construction Management Student Organization will be participating in the reconstruction and management of the Rebuilding Dreams restoration event, Apr. 30, 2011, following its competition.

“In spite of the serious work we do … We’re an organization of college students, and we like to keep it easygoing and have fun whenever possible,” MacClanahan said. “We do camping trips, go to baseball games and organize golfing tournaments – we just generally like to goof around and have a good time.”

Brett Johnson can be reached at [email protected]