Born and raised in the countryside near a city called Nakuru in Kenya, Colorado State University’s Department of Construction Management senior George Wamagata, a non-traditional student, immigrated to the United States in 2014. His only sibling, an older sister, and both parents still reside in Kenya. Wamagata served in the U. S. Navy for four years active duty, and two years in the reserves. He was stationed in Texas at the time he completed his service contract.
Equipped with a completed associate’s degree from taking evening classes, Wamagata began looking for a university that met his criteria: it needed to be close to the mountains, have a strong engineering department (he was looking at mechanical engineering programs), and have a great veterans’ support system. His search led him to CSU.
Upon transferring to CSU, Wamagata knew nothing about the CM program; he transferred in as a mechanical engineering student, learning later about the CM program from a current CM student with whom he worked. Coincidentally, the two are about to graduate in the same class.
Wamagata said, “By the end of my first semester at CSU I realized I didn’t like ME as much as I had initially thought I would and decided to try out some CM classes…the rest, as they say, is history.”
Challenges to overcome
The hardest obstacle to graduation, Wamagata admits, was during his first year at CSU. He was new in Fort Collins; he didn’t know anyone in the area; he was readjusting from the military; and he was settling into a new environment while working night shifts at his job. All these variables lumped together took their toll in different ways. From the classroom to personal life, he struggled to find time to do homework due to his work schedule and general life demands.
However, his positive outlook is what helped him succeed. He’s a firm believer in “keep on keeping on” if you want a positive outcome, no matter the situation.
Learning through internships
During his three-and-a-half years at CSU, Wamagata held two internships. Both were during the summers of 2021 and 2022 with the same company, Skanska USA. During the first internship he worked with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing team at the Portland International Airport in Oregon, as a project engineer intern.
For his second internship this past summer, Wamagata worked as a project engineer intern at a chip manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, Oregon, with the wastewater management team. This internship was very different from the first one, as it was very industrial in nature.
“Construction is complicated,” said Wamagata, “and all these internship experiences exposed me to different aspects of the construction industry and reinforced the concepts learned in a classroom environment.”
Did his time at CSU prepare him well for his career? “Definitely!” he said. “The CM department at CSU is simply the best. It’s no surprise we are one of the top programs nationally. We have a great support staff, great professors that often come from the industry and do such a good job at teaching and preparing you for what to expect once you’re out there. Also, what better way to learn something other than going out there and doing it? The internships I’ve done through the CM department ensure I know what I am getting into once I am in the industry.”
“Reaching this far,” said Wamagata, “I get to graduate! Of course, I am proud of this accomplishment. I never thought I would one day go to college. It was never part of the plan!”
Upon graduation, Wamagata is relocating to Seattle for his new job as an assistant engineer with Turner Construction company. His goals are to live a healthy lifestyle, purchase a home, start a family at some point, reach a senior level position in his career, save money, invest, and hopefully retire earlier than expected.
Wamagata’s advice to students is simple. “Don’t be afraid to talk and network with the other students in your class,” he said. “You’ll see most of those faces in your future classes, and some of those connections will last a lifetime. Lastly, exercise and live a healthy lifestyle.”
The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.