Colorado State University Department of Construction Management graduating senior, Ivannia Conejo, is from Denver, Colorado. Her mother is also from Denver and her father is from Guanajuato, a central Mexican state.
A first-generation student, she says she was fortunate enough to have an older brother who graduated from CSU in Fall 2018 also with a degree in construction management; he was able to help her navigate her way through college. Her twin sister was also at CSU during her college career; she graduated in Spring 2022 with a human development and family studies degree.
Conejo entered CSU with the thought that she would become an interior designer or an architect. She knew she wanted to do something construction-related but didn’t know exactly what. While originally declaring a major in interior architecture and design, she decided to minor in construction management.
“I soon realized I had just a bit more appreciation for construction rather than the designing side,” said Conejo. “I’ve always enjoyed problem-solving and most importantly, I have always been passionate about being able to look back and say I was a part of building something that is used by others.”
When faced with online learning during the COVID pandemic, Conejo admits it was a struggle making the adjustment. She likes hands-on, and face-to-face learning. With everything online during that time, she took extra time to pour over the slides from her classes since her main goal was not to memorize notes for an exam, but to fully understand the assignments.
During her program, she held two different internships. The first was with Bryan Construction as a project engineer intern on a school renovation project. It was the first time she had ever stepped foot on a construction site. Her varied job responsibilities included some hands-on experience in assisting the on-site carpenter. Overall, she thought it was a great experience, and felt she grew during those three months.
For Conejo’s second internship, she decided she wanted to explore what it would be like to work for a restoration company. She interned with BluSky Restoration Contractors as a project manager intern and soon learned she was their first intern ever.
“While I had very little knowledge about the restoration background,” said Conejo, “I soon realized how important a company like BluSky really is. Not only are you constantly restoring buildings, but you are also restoring people’s lives and that is something I looked forward to every day. I learned how to communicate effectively, empathize, and how to solve all sorts of problems. I met so many people, experienced the business development side, reconstruction, restoration, and I even got some experience on the mitigation side.”
Preparation pays off
At the conclusion of her summer internship, Conejo was offered a part-time position with BluSky outside of school, where she applied and tested what she learned in the classroom. She continued to assist the project manager on day-to-day activities. She also got the opportunity to run a small restoration job on her own with the help of the project director.
Before coming to CSU, Conejo admits to knowing very little about construction, and she had absolutely no experience whatsoever. She attributes the CM Program with her success for going into her internships and the part-time position already knowing a lot of the construction terminology, the structure, coordination and logic of what each trade was and when they were needed. She also knew what subcontractors had to work simultaneously with one another, which parties were involved, who she should be communicating with, and most importantly, she was very familiar with the safety aspects of construction.
When asked about her student involvement, Conejo cited the EMPOWER group – women engaging in construction mentoring. She joined her freshman year and remembered being excited about finally having the opportunity to meet other women who were once in her shoes, and who were willing to answer all her questions.
“I also had the opportunity of being one of CSU’s first CM undergraduate representatives for the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity change team,” said Conejo. “I was very appreciative that the department was finding ways to help people like me feel included within the program. It’s not easy being an underrepresented student; being part of the committee had such a high impact on me during my time at CSU.”
A few accomplishments she is most proud of during her time at CSU is “coming out of my comfort zone” by participating on student panels, joining other wonderful members to talk more about the CM department, and just being involved in women in construction events for younger girls.
Conejo was a mentor for the Women in Construction Management Summer Institute, a program which brings high school students interested in architecture, engineering and construction to CSU for a one-week summer program. She was able to answer students’ questions about the program and talk about her own personal experiences.
Her advice to students is, “Get as involved as possible. You never know who you are going to meet and how they will have an impact on your future careers. Also, do not be afraid of exploring new things; you will grow from those experiences – every experience is rewarding.”
After graduation and a short break to pursue personal interests, Conejo will be working with PG Arnold Construction in Boulder, Colorado, as a project lead.
The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.