Western Carolina University’s Master of Construction Management Program provides strategic, analytical and financial skills

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North Carolina Construction News special feature

Intended for working professionals seeking to advance their knowledge and grow their careers, Western Carolina University’s (WCU) 30-hour, online Master of Construction Management (MCM) program is designed for those with an interest and currently working in commercial and industrial construction, and large scale residential or land development projects.

george ford wcu
George Ford

MCM program director Dr. George Ford says the program was launched four years ago in response to a need in the industry for employees who had trade skills but also the strategic, analytical and financial skills needed to manage a project, a division or a company. Since then, he says, demand has grown.

“Construction in the Carolinas right now is very intense. I was in downtown Greenville last week, and there were cranes for several building projects. Development in Charlotte is booming. Here in western North Carolina, we are seeing growth in high-end residential building, and those high-end homes are really built like small commercial buildings.”

Understanding the demand and the needs to be filled, WCU’s MCM curriculum is designed to train future executives. Ford says the university is working to prepare current and future leaders of construction companies for those leadership roles.

The university also wants to provide training and credentials that will give its students an edge in the industry.

Core curriculum delivered through online courses covers topics including building information modeling, sustainability, construction finance, executive leadership and industry law.

Ford says an effort is made to ensure class projects apply directly to students’ careers, or can benefit the companies who employ them.

constructionmanagementThe university’s website says the program includes 18 core requirements and 12 elective hours from which students are advised to focus on areas of personal interest.

“There is a good bit of dialogue between students and professors as they work through assignments. Often those assignments are designed to enhance critical thinking skills in the industry. The coursework is functional and readily applicable on the job. Any research is based on the kind of research someone will do in a strategic position working for a construction firm.”

The interactive dialogue the course fosters, Ford says, is with professors who are experienced in the specific field they are teaching, including in the construction industry specifically. That experience, he says, includes international exposure, specifically in Asian markets, geotechnical engineering, work with large scale utilities, land management and more.

The program is also fully flexible to meet the demands of working students. “Students have five years to complete the program, so if they want to take a semester off because of a big work project, they can do that. If they want to double up and take three or four courses the following semester, they can do that.”

Ford says one aspect that makes WCU’s program unique is its affordability, especially for an accredited program with proven results. “We offer the quality you’d expect from a UNC system school at a cost that is far less than most graduate programs and only a fraction of the cost of private institutions.”

In order to help meet industry demands, Ford says enrollment caps at this point have not been set. There are no specific requirements, beyond good academic performance in an undergraduate degree and students can start during any semester.
Western Carolina University is one of the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. Located in Cullowhee, approximately 50 miles west of Asheville, WCU has provided higher education to the westernmost region of the state for more than 125 years.

Ford says the university is well known for highly ranked programs in practical professional fields such as nursing, teaching, engineering, forensic science, emergency management, business administration and more. “We work to offer degrees that meet workforce demands in our region, and construction management is in line with that mission.”

He says WCU’s undergraduate program in construction management has a long history of success with nearly 100 percent of graduates receiving job offers midway through their senior year.

For more information, visit http://wcu.edu.

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