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Construction industry supports student success through elite education program at SDSU

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The construction and building industry has suffered one of the hardest hits from the economic downturn. Unemployment has hovered at the 17 percent mark in the state of California for several years, high above the state and national average.

Among the bright success stories in this difficult job market is the J.R. Filanc Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) Program at San Diego State University. SDSU’s CEM program is fast becoming one of the elite higher education programs in its field in the United States.

Launched in 2007 by Peter, Jack, and Mark Filanc, who secured $5 million in donations to establish an endowment to start the program, 65 individuals have graduated from the program. All have secured employment, a remarkable accomplishment given the challenging business climate for the industry.

As part of maintaining ongoing program support, construction industry leaders joined with educators, and Class of 2012 CEM program students for a gala fundraiser on March 3 at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center. The goal of the gala was two-fold: first, to enlist broader support among the local construction industry to establish the program among the nationally recognized elite programs; and second, to support the Class of 2012 graduates through networking.

Gala guests received a unique set of “baseball card” resumes produced for the students as a tool to help them stand out and secure jobs in the construction industry upon graduation. Cards were distributed along with the event programs to the attendees.

As guests socialized and enjoyed a first-rate dinner with live entertainment, students had the opportunity for networking with industry leaders.

Graduating senior Luis Reyes said CEM students are deeply appreciative of the support they receive. “The support that we as students have from the program is amazing. Our professors, alumni and local professionals are very involved in what we do. Without that support our program would not be where it is today.”

Founder Jack Filanc, chairman of Filanc Construction, recalls how frustrated he felt trying to recruit top quality talent for his business, but not knowing where to go to find it. “We tried all sorts of different places. Being in San Diego, we said, you know, this school here should have a CEM program for the local people because we can hire locally, they can work here. It’s a good thing. So far we’ve been able to find people that fit our program and fit our culture.”

Dr. Ken Walsh, chairman of the program, said the program wouldn’t be possible without the construction industry’s participation and support. “The industry came to the university and said, ‘We want this to happen. We need this to happen.’ We wouldn’t exist without them. We wouldn’t do the things that we do if they didn’t participate."

Reyes says the entire class has a passion for their field. “We all have a desire to get involved in new projects and I believe that through their continued support, our program has the capability of becoming the premier Construction Engineering Management program in the United States,” Reyes said.

Reyes said students especially loved their baseball cards. “To have a list of all the graduating seniors is one thing, but to have a great visual of every single student all compiled into one fancy looking deck will definitely help all of us as we begin to make that transition from students to professionals.”

A video about the CEM program premiered at the event, featuring Filanc, Walsh, alumnus Carlos Gonzalez of Clark Construction, and student Denise Cortez. The video is posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a78GKa42c2k&feature=youtu.be

As Gonzalez said in the video, “I ask that our construction industry partners make a personal commitment of time, of resources, and make a financial commitment to really support the program and bridge that gap so that we can continue to have the same quality of graduates and that we can continue that legacy of quality construction in San Diego and in our region in general.”

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