Outstanding Construction Management graduate’s 20-year journey takes him from high school drop-out to earning his bachelor’s degree

Peter Hodgkins wearing sunglasses and smiling while holding a puppy
Peter Hodgkins is the 2022 Outstanding Grad from the Department of Construction Management.

Earning a degree from Colorado State University’s Department of Construction Management is challenging, even when one has taken the traditional route to get there. Peter Hodgkins overcame the odds to reach graduation after dropping out of high school in ninth grade and overcoming the life challenges of becoming a father to twins, and losing his own father.

Throughout all the mountains he has climbed on the way to crossing the stage in Moby Arena as a graduate, Hodgkins has learned lessons and made connections he’ll carry with him for the rest of what is sure to be a long and rewarding career in construction management.

His path to CSU

Born in Georgia, Hodgkins describes himself as a wild teen. Schooling was never his priority, so he dropped out in ninth grade to start working in concrete for a local contractor.

“It was a hard job, but I loved the gratification I would get from a hard day’s work,” Hodgkins said. “I never knew that this was the beginning of a lifelong love for construction.”

Eventually, though, Hodgkins realized he needed some more education under his belt to realize his full potential in construction.

“After many years of rigorous construction work in several fields, I decided it was time to work with my brain, not my back,” he said. “I was terrified to enter the world of higher education with less than a ninth-grade education, but I knew it was time for a change.”

Hodgkins hammering a nail next to a window on a construction project
Hodgkins working on a construction project for CSU’s community service program CM Cares.

In 2017, Hodgkins began taking classes at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins. Overjoyed to be able to put his brain to work, he was excelling in his classes, and thus set a lofty goal for himself: to one day graduate from CSU’s Construction Management Program.

Speaking to his experiences rejoining the world of higher education, Hodgkins said, “One thing that construction taught me was that even though the work might be hard, and there may be days you just want to give up, the greater the effort, the greater the return in the end.”

After graduating from Front Range Community College with honors, Hodgkins was accepted to CSU.

“I could hardly believe that a high school dropout, blue-collar construction worker could make it so far,” said Hodgkins. “To many, a bachelor’s degree is another step in their journey. To me, it was something I never thought possible.”

Overcoming obstacles

The path to success has been anything but easy for Hodgkins. Beginning with his early troubles with school, he had to work twice as hard to make up for the lost time.

“With a ninth-grade education, math was absolutely terrifying!” said Hodgkins. “I had to start at pre-pre-algebra and work my way up. It was frustrating and at times felt impossible. However, I had set a goal and wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way.”

Though he was behind the rest of his classmates in terms of traditional schooling, he’d already gotten years of hands-on experience as a business owner in the construction industry. Running a business while keeping up with the rigorous expectations of the CM program is a steep challenge, to say the least. Hodgkins, though, managed to use his real-world experience and in-class training in tandem to propel his studies and his business into excellence, with 90% of his customers returning.

Hodgkins was also forced to grapple with a family tragedy when his father passed away in January of 2022. His father, who Hodgkins credits with being one of his most ardent supporters, lived in Georgia, so Hodgkins had to make several trips halfway across the country in the middle of a semester to spend his last moments with him.

“He wanted to see me graduate and was so proud I had made it so far,” said Hodgkins. “Dealing with the loss absolutely crushed me. He told me, in the end, to keep working hard and bestowed his mantra of ‘sustained superior performance’ upon me. I will apply this simple idea to everything I do.”

Hodgkins' twin boys
Hodgkins’ twin boys

Only two months after his devastating loss, Hodgkins was faced with another challenge, albeit a joyful one: he became the father to twin boys! The boys were born a bit premature, however, and Hodgkins and his wife had to spend two weeks in the hospital with them while they gained enough strength to go home.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life to look into their adorable little eyes,” Hodgkins said. “They sure are hard work, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

CSU experiences

Hodgkins’ experiences in the construction management department transformed the way he thought about construction as a whole. Though he’d already spent decades of his life in the field, having the ability to expand his knowledge in a formal setting was incredibly beneficial.

“From safety to scheduling, large-scale construction supervision is complex and dynamic,” said Hodgkins. “The program has re-invigorated my love for the industry by reminding me that it’s so much more than hard work.”

While at CSU, Hodgkins had the opportunity to dive into CM Cares, the construction management program’s community service-learning initiative. He credits CM Cares with having the most significant impact on him throughout his entire undergraduate career.

Peter Hodgkins with members of the CM Cares team, wearing bright yellow vests
Hodgkins (far right) with members of the CM Cares team.

“I have built for accessibility before, but through this amazing program, I was reminded that construction isn’t just about 2x4s and concrete,” Hodgkins said. “It is ultimately about the end-user. What we do in this industry changes people’s lives.”

Internship and career with FCI Constructors

When looking for internship opportunities, Hodgkins had a unique challenge. Having already been self-employed for ten years, he had very particular expectations for any potential employer. Having a culture of family, as well as being a stable, secure workplace were priorities for Hodgkins.

Luckily, he found a place that satisfied all these requirements: FCI Constructors, Inc. FCI Constructors is a general contractor company that focuses on projects that improve the livability of an area and create a better physical community for everyone.

“I was working on an elementary school project in Loveland and enjoyed every second,” Hodgkins said. “Upgrading a building that would serve our community for years was so gratifying.”

After he graduates, Hodgkins is embarking on a career with FCI. “FCI was a great fit for me, and I am very excited about a career with their company,” he said.

Advice for CM students

Hodgkins is incredibly grateful to CSU for helping him soar to such great heights.

“I can’t wait to see where this new chapter takes me, and I have found a home with FCI,” said Hodgkins. “I am forever indebted to CSU for helping to make the connection and molding me into a valuable asset to such a great company.”

When asked what advice he might offer to younger students in the CM program, Hodgkins presents a clear message that hard work and perseverance will take anyone to their goals, no matter how out-of-reach they may seem now.

“Never give up!” Hodgkins said. “No matter what life throws at you, the CM program will offer you the security to weather the storms of life. This is no easy path you have chosen, but worthwhile endeavors rarely are. Construction is hard work, but the gratification you will get from seeing what you accomplish with each project will help you to grow as a parent, a friend, and a productive member of your community. Work hard and have fun!”

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