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MTSU Unveils Degree in Concrete Construction

Where does one go to learn how to run a concrete construction business? Not the nuts and bolts of building a footing or wall, those are still best taught on-the-job. I’m talking about finance, estimating, managing personnel, marketing… the things that can make or break a business even if you pour the best wall in town. Sadly, the options are few. You can learn the way most contractors do – from their boss (who is often a parent) or from the School of Hard Knocks. There is a new, attractive alternative.

Situated 30 miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, in the quiet (relatively quiet) city of Murphreesboro, is Middle Tennessee State University. A rapidly growing university, MTSU is home of the nation’s only four-year bachelors program in Concrete Industry Management (CIM). Launched in 1996, this program provides a well-rounded, yet focused, education for management personnel in the concrete industry. This year, the total enrollment is estimated at 300 full-time students and MTSU’s 100th CIM student will graduate.

CIM is offered by the Engineering Technology and Industrial Studies Department in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. This program attracts students from over 20 states, Beliz and Guatemala and its graduates are employed in over 17 states.

Until recently, the program was designed to prepare graduates for entry in areas such as the ready-mix industry, supplier industries, admixtures and chemicals, and concrete plant and manufacturing operations. In the fall, the University’s CIM program will be the first to offer a concentration with coursework focused on concrete contracting.

The new Concrete Contracting concentration in the CIM program is flexible in terms of its ability to accommodate students. Candidates can attend directly out of high school or they can obtain their degree while employed. Second year CIM students intern to gain supervised, practical work experience in their particular field of interest within the industry. CIM is working to accommodate nontraditional students who already have jobs but want to broaden their education. The first two years of concrete coursework will be available by correspondence by 2005. Students can attend a nearby community college or university and complete their general studies and business courses, along with the concrete correspondence coursework. This will allow working students to finish their degree with one or two years of fulltime study on campus.

General required courses include English Literature, writing and research courses, history, math courses (i.e. algebra and trigonometry), sciences (i.e. geology and chemistry), economics and psychology. Requirements for the minor in business administration include accounting, management, marketing business law, and finance courses. Concrete coursework includes industry courses, blueprint reading, fundamentals of concrete, materials and methods, concrete problems, and other concreterelated courses.

The concrete contracting concentration adds site planning, layout and preparation, formwork design and computerized drafting, concrete project estimating, advanced concrete project management, design and construction issues, concrete contracting personnel management, field management and supervision.

There are numerous individuals whose vision and tireless effort created this Program but it would not have been a success without the insight and guidance of Austin Cheney, the program Director, Dr. Heather Brown (formerly Heather Sauter – but no relation to Ed), the first tenure-track faculty hired for the program, and Debbie Londre, Marketing & Recruiting Coordinator. Staff was added as the program grew and now includes Joe Fulks, a full-time instructor, and two new tenuretrack faculty to begin in fall, 2004. The staff and steering committee for the CIM program have their sights set even higher. In the next two years, they plan to expand the program, using the MTSU success as a model, to one or two additional universities in the United States. The steering committee also supports the development of a Masters Degree program for Business Management, with an emphasis on concrete. Future plans also include creation of a separate department at MTSU and eventually construction of CIM’s own building (concrete of course).

The CIM program is also unique because it is supported, in great part, by private industry. Yearly tuition at MTSU is less than $4,000 for in-state and for 12 southeastern states in the Academic Common Market, and less than $12,000 for those who must pay out-of-state rates. To help offset the cost of attending college more than 15 scholarships are available each year and supported by companies and associations throughout the country. A support group called the CIM Patrons, which consists of representatives from industry manufacturers, concrete associations, and other interested parties, provides guidance, funding, and most importantly, job opportunities for graduates. The Program has the full support of the University from the college dean through the president and it receives high praise form the industry and graduates alike.

CIM offers an excellent opportunity for contractors to hire quality, well-rounded, and knowledgeable people to help run businesses. Educating those already employed by your company is also feasible with the remote learning option of the program. For more information, contact Austin Cheney at For general information about the program, visit

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us