CSU Construction Management names faculty member to serve as next Heavy Construction Chair

Chris Harper headshotIn spring of 2008, industry members gathered on the Colorado State University main campus to recognize the generosity of lead contributors to the Heavy Construction Management Endowed Chair, a permanent faculty position in the Department of Construction Management. This spring CM Associate Professor, Chris Harper was named the new Heavy Construction Chair.

Over the last 58 years, construction has become a $500 billion industry marked by continuous and dramatic change. The demand for capable and highly trained construction management professionals who can adapt to change and become effective leaders in the field is paramount. CSU’s Construction Management Program is committed to providing the highest-quality education for tomorrow’s industry leaders and managers.

Purpose of the Heavy Construction Chair

Based on the future needs of the industry and the fact that the nation’s infrastructure needs major repairs and upgrades, the heavy construction emphasis is needed now more than ever. With increasing activity over the next 10 to 20 years in highway, heavy, and other infrastructure construction, the heavy construction industry needs professionally trained managers.

A few years back, CSU along with a volunteer leadership advisory board launched a fundraising initiative to permanently endow a faculty position (chair) in the heavy construction management area to encourage students to choose it as a career. To facilitate increased emphasis on heavy construction, Harper will inspire and lead students to make the heavy construction management career choice. He will create a culture of understanding about heavy construction and its importance to the future of our state, region, and nation.

The endowment provides a permanent emphasis in Heavy Construction Management. In addition, Harper will:

  • Conduct research to benefit the heavy construction industry
  • Develop partnerships with the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering to promote a better understanding of the roles each discipline plays in heavy construction
  • Energize the construction management students regarding the heavy construction industry and the career opportunities available.

Plans for curriculum and research development

As the Heavy Construction Management Chair, Harper has the vision to leverage the position to enhance CM’s heavy construction curriculum, explore major transportation and heavy construction funding and grants, and continue to provide service to the heavy construction industry. Heavy construction is a sector that will require extensive rehabilitation and replacement as the nation’s transportation infrastructure, electrical transmission, and water/wastewater systems continue to age beyond their expected life expectancy.

CM has discussed developing more topics and courses that focus on heavy construction management. With his background in teaching and research on heavy construction topics, Harper plans to investigate developing heavy construction-specific modules focusing on the major construction components such as estimating, scheduling, quality, safety, risk, and productivity. As these heavy construction modules are developed, they can be used in specific courses within the undergraduate and graduate curriculum or assembled into new elective classes.

For research, Harper envisions his role to disseminate results of heavy construction research. He hopes to utilize his network of heavy construction professionals to continue to develop research needs statements for topics related to heavy construction and explore major heavy construction research initiatives.

A major discussion topic in heavy construction is the shortage of skilled workers and managers for the available work, including the billions of dollars of future transportation infrastructure work based on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in November 2021. With the increase in rehabilitation and replacement of infrastructure projects forthcoming, the shortage will continue to grow.

Therefore, one of the major initiatives Harper has in mind is to investigate developing a construction workforce center that will incorporate training and education for all construction sectors, including heavy construction management. His role as the Heavy Construction Management Chair will support this initiative as a lot of leg work will be needed to find partners and develop the goals and objectives of the workforce center. Harper’s travel to speak with professionals will play a major role in establishing the workforce center.

“I am honored to be named CM’s Heavy Construction Chair,” said Harper. “I plan to promote heavy construction, recognizing that this Chair is an excellent opportunity for CSU’s land grant mission and the CM department. My goal during my appointed time as the Heavy Construction Chair, is to enhance our CM curriculum along with the research conducted in heavy construction.”

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