Featured Student / Alumni
Construction management graduate to become third-generation contractor
As a child, Chase West meandered down the halls of the former Southern College of Technology with his father, Eddie, chatting with professors and admiring the numerous awards that lined the brick walls as they walked.
At the time, Eddie West wanted to show his son the place where he learned his craft, long before becoming an electrical contractor and starting A. West Enterprise in Albany, Ga., with his wife, Angie. He never anticipated that his son would follow him and his father-in-law to become a third-generation contractor. After graduating this month with a degree in construction management, Chase West will join his father’s company as a project manager.
“If his granddaddy was alive, he would be so excited and so proud to see his work continue on,” said Eddie West, a 1994 graduate of Southern Tech, now Kennesaw State University.
However, the path to graduation was somewhat of a journey, Chase West said. After graduating high school, he enrolled in Darton State College, now Albany State University, and later took a break from school to try his hand at law enforcement. He joined the Albany Police Department in 2013 after completing the police academy.
“I started policing because I wanted to be sure that construction was something I wanted to do and not just something my dad wanted me to do,” West said.
After a three-year stint as a patrolman, West began to reflect on the times his father brought him into the construction management capstone room to show the work of students who would soon graduate and “make some real money.” He decided it was time to put down the badge and return to the place that gave his father a fresh start.
“My dad has always taken me up to this campus year after year and made me walk these halls, made me look at the plaques on the walls,” West said. “He was very proud of the education he received. When I finally made it back up here myself, the first thing I wanted to do was chase his legend down.”
Carrying over credits he earned at Darton State, West completed his degree in just two years, averaging about 15 credit hours per semester. Like his father, he served as the student chapter president for the Association of General Contractors and was named chairman for the University’s Construction Guild. He was active in the student government association as a senator representing the College of Architecture and Construction Management, and was initiated into the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success.
“Chase has an impressive personality and is an avid listener. He stands firm on his ground but also has a soft side, and is always ready and willing to help others,” said Khalid Siddiqi, chair of KSU’s construction management department. “Several construction companies approached me to recruit Chase, but he politely declined because he made a commitment to his dad to work only after completing his degree program.”
Though he had some field experience working alongside his father, West said he felt being involved with the various student organizations gave him a new perspective on project management. He credits the construction management faculty with continuing to push him academically.
“The professors are all extremely friendly and extremely helpful, and I’m not just saying that,” West said. “They all know my name, and they’ve all gone out of their way to help me any way that they can.”
Eddie West jokes that his son couldn’t graduate fast enough, as construction managers are a need for his company and others across the country. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 48 percent of contractors nationwide say they have trouble filling salaried project manager positions, which include construction managers. In Georgia alone, more than half of survey respondents said project managers were their greatest need.
Speaking from his own experience, Eddie West said that his son should be well equipped for the job on Day 1.
“I know Chase is getting a quality education because it’s pretty much the same education I received two decades ago,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun to see him go through school and to call me to talk about what he’s learning because I’ve done it all before.”
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“The skills I learned during my time as a student at KSU have impacted my life in more ways than simply obtaining a position within my industry. As a non-traditional student I needed a flexible schedule that would allow me to work toward my degree while maintaining a full time job in the work field. The Construction Management program gave me exactly that, along with numerous opportunities through student Chapters such as the AGC (Associated General Contractors of America), ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors) and Constructors Guild. I served as President of the AGC for approximately 2 years, interim President of ABC for 1 year, and Vice President of the Constructors Guild for 4 years. I believe my involvement in the extracurricular activities contributed to my success in obtaining scholarships from the Construction Department, to mention a few of these scholarships: CMIAB Scholarship, Flagler Scholarship, Toy-Mench Scholarship any many more.
Not long after beginning my courses in the construction program, and with the help of the department, I was able to obtain a full time internship with a reputable company to further my education while maintaining a quality of life myself and my family were used to. The program offered me all of the tools that I needed to get the most out of my time there, through internships, scholarships, competition, and putting me face to face and in contact with industry professionals to bounce ideas off of, as well as ask career advice. All of these factors, along with the dedication of the faculty, are directly related to my success in the industry.”
-- Tanner Wilson, Project Manager, RA-LIN and Associates, Inc.
Cara Lea Black
Banks County High School alumni and current Construction Management student, Cara Lea Black, sets high goals during her attendance at Kennesaw State University.
When Cara was younger, she was interested in many different career paths. From wanting to be an archaeologist, a chef, a detective, and a teacher, she remained open minded. At sixteen, she was introduced to a project superintendent on a heavy construction job in Gwinnett County. She was educated about his job, and was offered the opportunity to shadow him for a couple months. During this time, Cara was able to see a bridge almost completely constructed in a month. While watching the project superintendent guide people and help them to work together for a common goal, she knew that she had found the career she wanted to pursue.
In addition to studying Construction Management at KSU, Cara is a full-time intern at Eckardt Electric, performing the duties of a project administrator while being trained to be a project manager. Along with being a full-time student and intern, she is also the President of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), and the standing Vice President and co-founder of the Construction Guild, which she is working to help bring back to Kennesaw State.
“My involvement with these student chapters and teams is intangible and unmeasurable, but it does have very direct and useful gains,” Cara said. Cara has been awarded scholarships through both organizations and also has had the opportunity to attend national conventions, where she has taken various classes on leadership and other necessary skills to be successful in the field.
When Cara leaves KSU, her goal is to graduate with honors and take all of her experiences at KSU into the professional world as a construction project manager. She hopes to be offered a full-time role with Eckardt Electrical. “After graduation, I also would like to stay involved in the student competition teams and help other people be successful in the field. I plan to leave a legacy at KSU that others can follow.”
Myles Cardenas, a senior Construction Management major expected to graduate in May 2017, is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Golden Key International Honour Society, Sigma Lambda Chi, and Phi Kappa Phi. Currently the president of the KSU National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Student Chapter, Myles maintains a 3.7 GPA. He is one of four recipients of the Construction Management Industry Advisory Board’s 2015-2016 annual scholarships, alongside Melody Bjorkgren (senior), Edib Cengic (senior), and Nicholas Fabiano (sophomore). Myles carries forward his first-hand experiences as a student in construction management to his internship at Batson-Cook Company and to his varied community service endeavors, including serving as a mentor for the KSU Odyssey Peer Mentor Program and as a volunteer for HomeAid Atlanta, the Woodruff Arts Center, Habitat for Humanity, and Rainbow Village.
"Since entering the CM program in 2013 as an SPSU student and now a KSU student, I have received the Construction Management Industry Advisory Board Scholarship twice. Having been a recipient of this prestigious scholarship within our department, I have been able to expand my resources and take full advantage of opportunities that have become available during my time here. I am very grateful, and I owe the department for rewarding me with the opportunity to take the necessary steps forward in the continuation and completion of the program." ---Myles Cardenas
Under Myles’ presidency, KSU’s NAHB student organization was selected by the as NAHB this year’s Outstanding Student Chapter. The award recognizes achievements in chapter activities, green program, diversity and activities with local builders associations. KSU’s chapter was chosen from more than 150 student chapters from around the country during the 2016 NAHB International Builders Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.
"I can honestly say that competing has been one of the best experiences of my college career. It’s extremely rewarding to work on a project and measure up against some of the top four-year universities with NAHB student chapters from across the nation. Spending time with team members, applying what I’ve learned inside and outside of the classroom, and presenting in front of industry professionals has drastically increased my opportunities and experiences in the construction industry. I am very grateful to have been a part of those teams and to be able to take on the challenge of competing for one more year." ---Myles Cardenas