Construction Management alumnus finds his calling in higher education

Ryan Penlerick, CM alumnus ('01)A Colorado State University Department of Construction Management graduate, Ryan Penlerick (’01) grew up spending a lot of time along the front range of Colorado and knew that was where he wanted to attend college. That was mainly because his mother is an alumna of CSU, with a degree in business.

Originally, Penlerick attended the University of Colorado-Boulder in the fall of 1997, as an architectural engineering major. But after a year-and-a-half he realized that the design side simply wasn’t for him. He was trying to find a place where his skill set of problem solving, decision making, and team building would be a better fit with a college degree program.

Finding CSU

After struggling with what to study and where to go, it was his uncle in the construction management industry who suggested that Penlerick consider construction management. It didn’t take long to realize that CSU had one of the premier CM programs in the country and he felt it was the right place for him. Penlerick transferred to CSU’s Construction Management Program in the fall of 1999 and graduated in December 2001.Ryan Penlerick in hard hat

After completing his required internships for the degree program with Calcon Constructors in Denver, Penlerick ended up working full time throughout the rest of his college career as an estimator for a local concrete and flatwork company. They ran slipform curb and gutter machines in subdivisions all over the front range.

Upon graduating from CSU, he relocated to San Antonio, Texas, and began working with a large multi-family contractor, Galaxy Builders, Ltd., as an assistant project manager. He was with Galaxy for 11 years and had the opportunity to hold the positions of assistant project manager, project manager, then vice president of a newly created commercial division of the company. At that time, the business expanded from mainly garden-style multifamily units to include new construction and renovation of schools, libraries, higher education facilities, and even some of the more modern (at the time) podium style, multi-family and mixed-use projects.

Transition to higher education

Then the recession of 2008-2010 happened. Penlerick had to lay-off many friends, who were like family. That’s when he decided it was time to move on and he started his own business.

From 2011-2022, he co-owned a commercial general contracting company that completed small to medium-sized commercial construction projects around the state of Texas. Those projects included fire stations, city halls, medical clinics, retail shells, schools, and multiple other project types in the $1-5 million range. Throughout his time at the various positions in the industry Penlerick always kept an eye toward higher education, including recruiting new talent and developing training programs for new employees. For the past several years, he served as an adjunct faculty member in the Construction Science and Management Program at Texas State University.

Ryan Penlerick teaching in front of classroom“I enjoyed that part of my job so much that I decided it was time for me to give back and educate the next generation of construction managers,” he said. “I completed my Master of Arts degree in higher education administration from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Currently I’m completing my final coursework and writing my dissertation for my Ph.D. in construction science from Capitol Technology University.”

In October of 2022 Penlerick took a full-time appointment as a professor of practice and program director for the Concrete Industry Management Program at Texas State University. The CIM program is a Bachelor of Science degree program that marries a lot of the concepts and coursework in construction management with additional specialization in concrete materials science and business administration. This creates a unique degree program with exceptional practical applicability for graduates. Having the opportunity to fulfill that dream of teaching the next generation of leaders for the concrete and construction industry is very fulfilling to Penlerick. He finds that helping build a program that is meaningful to industry, graduates, and the higher education enterprise is one of the most challenging roles of his career.

Advice to students

Penlerick is grateful for the preparation he received at CSU. “I wholeheartedly believe that not only the degree that I received from CSU helped me prepare for my career, but also the guidance and mentorship of the CM faculty and staff at CSU were key to my success,” he said.

Penlerick hopes to continue growing and improving his current CIM program to become one of, if not the premier program in the country. He believes the education it provides already is second to none, and he says the industry demand for their graduates only continues to increase. Penlerick notes that seeing graduates and alumni continue to succeed and give back to the program they have helped create is the ultimate reward.

His advice to current and future construction management students? “Continue to learn, train, and get better every day,” he said. “The construction industry you are entering will not be the same industry you will be working in 20 years from now. Our industry is changing fast with new technologies, new materials, new processes, and new challenges across the breadth of society from social to political to environmental. We can only rise to those challenges through continuous lifelong learning and education.”

Penlerick grew up in the panhandle of Nebraska. He is married with four children, three of whom are currently all in college, and one who is a freshman in high school.

The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.