The Colorado State University Department of Construction Management is pleased to recognize Andy Hieber, graduating from the CM master’s program. From a small town on the Western slope of Colorado, called Cedaredge, and the youngest of three children, Hieber’s older sister graduated CSU before him. He originally began his CSU journey pursuing a civil and environmental engineering degree. But after his first year of college and internship the following summer, he found that construction management was a better fit, and made the switch, primarily to be “more in the field than in the office.”
Straight from high school, Hieber started working in the industry. Following in his father’s footsteps, he pursued heavy civil construction. He’s worked in different sectors of heavy civil construction that included working for a paving contractor, an owner – working with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and for an industry consultant.
Hieber has worked with the company, RockSol Consulting, Inc. for seven years, through both his undergraduate and master’s degree programs. His job entails primarily performing inspections and material testing on CDOT projects. He serves on the training committee at RockSol and helps teach new hires to be testers.
The CM Experience
“The CM program has helped shaped me to be more confident in my skills while working with groups,” said Hieber, “and has grown my own individuality for how I fit into a team. My time at CSU has given me the basic skills to be successful in the industry; now only time is needed to refine those skills instead of learning them from scratch.”
Hieber’s biggest regret from his undergraduate experience was not choosing to participate in club activities, as he saw how much further ahead in the program students were who did participate. Hieber said, “They learned concepts and tools before they ever took the designated classes.”
As for the faculty, Hieber felt each had an impact, some more than others. He particularly remembers his undergraduate instructor, Mike O’Reilly saying, “Miss a day, miss a lot!” That will always stick in his mind. In the master’s program, Hieber felt the relationship to the professors changed, as graduate level classes require students to problem-solve, engaging more critical thinking. Hieber felt there was more camaraderie with this approach.
Asked about his overall CM experience, Hieber said, “I look at it this way: a B.S. degree in CM teaches you how to be a project engineer on one to three projects, where a master’s degree in CM teaches you to run three to five project engineers. The M.S. degree allows you to take that step back and see the whole picture of the company, and even the industry as a whole, creating solutions that affect everyone for the betterment of the industry, not just one company in particular.”
As a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), Hieber had a long list of highlights. He enjoyed teaching the upcoming members of the industry – CM students – and being able to pass on the knowledge that he acquired, then seeing the growth of his students through the semester. He also liked developing relationships with faculty to the point of being considered a friend rather than an acquaintance. He enjoyed meeting people from all over the world with different backgrounds and perspectives, and even learning more about different cultures from his fellow graduate students.
The one shadow cast on his overall experience was the onset of the COVID-19 virus and its impact on student success, from a teaching perspective.
Advice to students
Hieber had no hesitation in offering some guidance to students following in his footsteps. He said, “No class is a blow-off class; I have used something from every class I have taken, even if it is not within my industry. Learn to work as a team, and know how an effective team works, learning new roles, if possible. Determine what kind of a leader you want to be as this degree will make you a part of the industry. Know the difference between a leader and leadership, always leaving doors open, as the construction industry is a small world.”
There was specific advice for graduate students. “Ask questions,” said Hieber. “You can never be too humble. Be open and learn from each other. Interview your adviser before finalizing who that person will be, to find the best fit for you. Take a leadership course from some department at CSU; I recommend the one from the College of Business master’s program.”
Hieber’s immediate plans after graduation are to continue working in the heavy civil construction industry, as well as to earn his pilot’s certification for Part 107 unmanned aircraft (drones). Besides the goal of moving up within his company, Hieber’s future goals include the desire to return and teach at CSU’s Department of Construction Management. He would also like to expand the use of unmanned aircraft systems in the heavy civil construction industry. Additionally, he hopes to be able to change the culture of the industry to be more accepting of new technology and of diverse opinions.