“Colorado State University is not just about graduating students with a degree in construction management,” says Mostafa Khattab, head of the Dept. of Construction Management at Colorado State University. “We are about making a difference in the lives of everyone around us.”
CM Cares, a program created four years ago at CSU, is one of the initiatives designed to instill students with leadership abilities beyond the technical and managerial skills needed to be successful in the construction industry by pairing them with members of the community who have unmet needs for construction-related projects.
“It has been a real honor to mentor and work alongside the CSU CM students as they serve the community through the CM Cares Program,” says Jared Hoeflich, project executive at Swinerton Builders, Denver, and a former industry mentor on the Brinks Family CM Cares Project. “CM Cares provides an opportunity for the students to really gain perspective and to experience what true leadership is all about, as they work to improve the lives of very deserving families.”
CM Cares is primarily delivered through the Construction Leadership course, which covers essential “soft skills” like communication, problem solving, ethics and more. The industry is heavily involved in sharing experiences both in the classroom and on the CM Cares’ community projects jobsites. Students must apply and be accepted into the course and are then assembled into teams to complete their assigned construction projects within the community. It is above and beyond the curriculum requirements for graduation with a CM degree.
“Technical skills are not going to be enough for our students to be leaders in the construction industry, and the traditional classroom experience does not lend itself to effectively teaching these leadership skills,” adds Khattab. “With the addition of the CM Cares community service projects, students are able to combine what they learn in the classroom with essential soft skills, and put them into practice on real-world projects. CM Cares takes students out of their comfort zones, into the community, to touch someone else’s life and to learn what leadership is all about,” he says.
Since the start of CM Cares, 70 students have taken the leadership course, more than 90 construction firms and donors have supported the program, and more than 300 volunteers have assisted with CM Cares to complete 13 construction service projects. The program is celebrating recognition on local and national news, along with receiving multiple community service awards.
Swinerton Builders has been a vital partner of CM Cares for the last two years and has provided resources, mentorship and volunteers on two projects—the Grashorn Project and the Brinks Family Project. Creating a sustainable funding source for CM Cares surfaced as a philanthropic priority for Swinerton Builders, which announced that it would contribute the lead gift to start an endowment for the program. It will provide resources for CM Cares in perpetuity.
“The Swinerton Foundation is particularly passionate about supporting programs that build leaders in our fast-paced, constantly evolving industry,” explains Gary Rafferty, president and CEO at Swinerton Builders. “Our industry is in need of leadership, and it is through mentorship and education programs such as CM Cares that today’s young builders will learn early on the crucial elements to turn their passion for construction into a lifelong career.”
Endowing CM Cares will provide a dependable budget that will improve CSU’s ability to give students opportunities. In turn, they will make a difference in the lives of others while also putting into action the lessons they learn in the classroom—a mission that Swinerton Builders shares.
Swinerton Builders has also committed to helping CSU raise the rest of the funds needed to fulfill the overall goal of the endowment, which is $1 million. That will provide approximately $45,000 annually for students to use on their projects and sustain the overall operations of the CM Cares program.
“I feel strongly that CM Cares and the end result from the hard work that the students put in is something that they will not soon forget,” adds Hoeflich. “The insight that they take from this experience will shape their future and set the students on a course for success.”