At the end of this year, Bolivar Senior, Ph.D., is retiring from the Colorado State University Department of Construction Management after a 25-year career at CSU, beginning as an assistant professor and, more recently, an associate professor.
Senior’s father was a civil engineer who eventually became a contractor and then a real estate developer. “Construction absolutely runs in the family,” said Senior.
Path to academia
Before his tenure in academia, Senior worked in his native Dominican Republic as a civil engineer with an emphasis in hydraulic structures design before obtaining an M.S. in construction engineering from Georgia Tech. Returning to the Dominican Republic he worked as a project engineer and then as a consultant in construction cost control and project planning.
After a decade spent in the Dominican Republic, he returned to the United States to obtain a Ph.D. in construction engineering at Purdue University. He then served as assistant professor at the University of New Mexico for two years.
“I had the good fortune of having Daniel Halpin, Ph.D., as an advisor and mentor,” said Senior. “He is a world-wide authority in productivity modeling. My luck was extended by working at UNM with Greg Howell, one of the founders of the lean construction movement.
“From such a privileged position, I have been able to establish a reputation in the lean construction area. I have coauthored two popular textbooks, namely Construction Management, which is in its fifth edition (the latest edition coauthored with Gunnar Lucko, Ph.D.), which has an international version. Also, Financial Management and Accounting Fundamentals for Construction, which is currently used by several programs in the United States and abroad.”
Coming to CSU
In 1996, Senior learned that Gary Gehrig, a well-known figure in the CM world of the 1990s, was retiring from CSU, and that he taught exactly the courses that most-interested Senior, namely, scheduling and productivity improvement. Senior applied and ended up in Gehrig’s former office, teaching his former courses and “happy ever after for my decision.”
In his years at CSU, Senior served as a committee member for over 80 graduate students. He taught several courses, including Construction Scheduling, Financial Management, Construction Surveying, and Applied Productivity Improvement.
Senior served as adviser for CSU’s chapter of the Construction Management honor society Sigma Lambda Chi, and as the faculty coach for multiple student competition teams. He also served as chair of the university’s Benefits Committee, and on the Faculty Council’s Teaching and Learning, and Scholastic Standards committees.
Evolution of construction education
As for changes observed during his tenure, Senior notes that he has seen the CM body of knowledge coalescing from a loose collection of courses from various disciplines to a well-defined profession.
As a student, himself, he needed to take courses in departments as diverse as systems engineering, computer technology, civil engineering, and business management, in contrast to the current program at CSU, where most courses are in-house and more geared toward CM needs.
Asked about his advice for students and faculty, Senior cites technology making a tremendous difference in the CM profession. He believes these advances also mean that instructors need to decide what to teach and how to teach it differently than a couple of decades ago.
“It is fair for students to include the coverage of new technologies and software,” said Senior. “On the other hand, technology should not obscure the concepts being transmitted. This conundrum is not easy to solve, because it is evolving every day.”
Senior is a strong believer in the importance of family life, enjoying a 34-year marriage to his wife, Ana Senior, and being a proud father and grandfather. He plans to enjoy his retirement pursuing his passion for rock climbing, archery and Greco-Roman wrestling – or not! “That’s the beauty of retirement!” he said.
What does he hope to be remembered for relative to the Department of Construction Management? Senior says, “I will be happy if I can be remembered as someone who loved our department, and acted with the best interest of our students in mind.”
The Department of Construction Management is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.