Matt Blake found the CSU Department of Construction Management through a non-traditional route, spending many years in the construction industry before returning to school. After receiving assistance to complete his degree, Blake and his wife Candice are supporting students like himself with a scholarship to help them achieve their dreams.
Starting off in the construction industry
Blake was born in Perry, Iowa, and raised in Longmont, Colorado. As a child, he enjoyed using his hands and building things. After graduating from high school, he moved to Greeley to attend the University of Northern Colorado. Early on in his college career, it became clear he wasn’t quite ready for the academic commitment. Ultimately, he decided to hit pause on college and get some hands-on work experience first. After making this decision, Blake began working as a laborer in the heavy civil construction industry.
From there, life moved on at warp speed. Blake gained experience in construction site work, house excavation, golf course and roadway construction, earthmoving and grading operations, and associated heavy civil and infrastructure related disciplines of work. Before he knew it, 18 years had flown by and he had worked his way up from a laborer to a foreman, to a superintendent, and ultimately a project manager. In addition, Blake met and married his wife, Candice, and they had their first daughter. After nearly two decades of experience under his belt, Matt was ready to go back to college and complete his degree. This time, he was certain he wanted to study construction management.
While he was still working full time, Blake began taking classes at Front Range Community College. Once he completed his general education requirements, he applied to transfer to Colorado State University’s Construction Management Program. After he was accepted, he quickly realized it would be in his best interest if he stopped working and became a full-time student. However, Blake had a family to support and this decision seemed financially impractical.
Fortunately, his wife’s grandparents, Jerry and Sue Crane, stepped in and offered to supplement his income so he could concentrate on his studies and take advantage of the CM program’s many offerings. This opportunity was a blessing for Blake and his family and would change their lives forever.
Right before Blake was to graduate in 2008, he and Candice asked if they could re-pay Jerry and Sue and they declined repayment of the money. Instead, the Cranes told the Blakes to “pay it forward” somehow; they chose to support other non-traditional CSU CM students in need. With that, the Blakes created the Jerry and Sue Crane Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship is given to juniors or seniors in CM with a preference for non-traditional students or students who have families.
Thanks to the Cranes’ generosity, Blake was able to fully commit to his CM studies, participate in student competitions, and complete an internship. While he was in Reno competing at the ASC student competition, he attended a meet-and-greet with Flatiron Construction. Flatiron offered him an internship, which turned into a full-time job in heavy civil pre-construction, estimating, and project development.
Since completing his degree in 2008, Blake has worked in several management roles at Flatiron Construction, Parsons Corporation, Ames Construction, and now The Lane Construction Corporation. He has also been afforded the opportunity to work on several large heavy civil projects and has developed an expertise in preconstruction and design build.
In his role at Lane Construction, he is heading up a new initiative focused on embracing innovative technologies including Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) specific to the heavy civil and infrastructure sectors of the construction industry. He enjoys this new role because it allows him to incorporate and leverage multiple facets of his construction experience including procurement, scheduling, estimating, and field experience.
Reflecting back on his time at CSU, Blake shared, “The construction management class content was so diverse. It incorporated construction, business, accounting and engineering. I was able to come out of the program very well-rounded. In addition, the CM faculty and staff were second to none. They were always willing to help every student. I am so grateful for their support.”
“Because I was a non-traditional student with 18 years of experience in the field,” he said, “I was able to add a lot of value in classroom discussions and share my relevant real-world examples and applications.”
Involvement with CM
Because Blake had such a positive experience in the Department of Construction Management, he remains very involved today. In addition to supporting current students through the Jerry and Sue Crane Memorial Scholarship, he also attends and recruits students at the career fairs, serves on the Professional Advisory Development Board, and offers to speak to student groups and clubs. He considers his involvement as an ongoing commitment to paying it forward.
“There’s something really special about helping someone else achieve a degree from CSU,” he explained. “Too many students drop out due to life circumstances. I like knowing that our scholarship helps ease the financial burden and allows students to focus on their studies. My CSU degree has opened so many doors and has made such a huge difference in my family’s life. I want to help give that to others.”
On that note, Blake shared some parting words for current CSU students, “Keep learning! Know that you will achieve your dreams at your own pace. And as you go along, remember that people want to pass down their knowledge. Take it! Make it a lifelong goal to listen, learn, and grow. And don’t forget about work mentors. They can provide you with a secondary education. There is so much to be gained just by paying attention to more senior employees.”