Gretchen Bockenhauer grew up in the field of construction, learning from her family’s business. But it was her experience as a student at UW-Platteville that cemented her interest in the field. “My senior year, I applied to be the project manager of construction of the Forensic Investigation Crime Scene House on campus and was selected,” said Bockenhauer. “Through this position, I realized construction management is what I wanted to have a career in.” Now, as lecturer and co-program coordinator for UW-Platteville’s Building Construction Management program, she enjoys sharing her experience with students and helping them find their own passion in the construction management field.
What do you enjoy about teaching at your alma mater?
As an alumna of UW-Platteville, it is very rewarding to me to give back to my alma mater as a lecturer within the Construction Management Program. I love working with students to find their passion in the field of construction, share my management experiences, and be able to bring industry partners to them. The knowledge and networking they are getting in the construction management program is one that I strive to keep improving and making them aware of what is out there. I also love the atmosphere of the campus and the team of professors I work with. My favorite part of our construction management program is our hands-on labs – Commercial Construction Lab, Road and Infrastructure Lab, and Safety Lab – that are in our construction management degree and our construction safety management degree.
Why is it important to have gender diversity in the field of construction management, and how do you help encourage and mentor women at UW-Platteville who are considering the field?
The construction industry field is a male-dominated field, but personally I enjoy that! It is so important for me to mentor and encourage those students of minority and let them know that they are no different than those they work with. Each day is a challenge, and for those who tackle the day with an open mindset that they can do anything; they will succeed. The construction management field is one with endless opportunity and growth, as long as they have that passion and drive they will do well.
Partnerships with industry are a crucial part of delivering a quality program to students. How do you foster these partnerships, and what kind of benefits – for the university and students, and the industry partners – have you seen?
Our construction industry partners are crucial to our students, program and university. They are involved throughout the year with our students through presentations, field trips and site tours, our advisory board and through donations. We have seen throughout the years that the more involved our industry partners are with our students and programs, the more prepared our students are for their first full-time construction position. They have experienced those real-life construction experiences through our hands-on labs and courses and are able to see what is happening in the field. Our industry partners get those well-rounded students once they graduate, and they are also able to get brand recognition.
What is new in the Building Construction Management program that you are most excited about?
This fall, we will be offering our new degree in construction management with emphases areas of management and safety. The third annual Construction Career Day will take place on Tuesday, May 4. We currently have five schools registered for this event and an estimated 60-plus students attending. We currently have four sponsors for this event, and two of them will be doing hands-on activities with the students. We will have a Construction Networking Event on Tuesday, Sept. 29. Our Construction Management Association holds weekly meetings at 6 p.m. This student organization invites companies to present at the virtual weekly meetings. And, our UW-Platteville 2020 National ABC Construction Management Competition Team received first in safety and second overall at a recent competition. They competed against 26 universities nationwide.
You help organize industry events, like the Construction Career Day and the future Construction Safety Summit. What can people expect from these events?
I am very excited to offer our construction events for our students and industry partners. Construction Career Day gives ninth through 12th grade students exposure to the different career opportunities within the construction industry. Students will experience hands-on activities and the opportunity to network with construction professionals and UW-Platteville faculty, students and alumni. Students will also be given the opportunity to experience what a real construction site is like.
UW-Platteville, in conjunction with construction industry partners, is hosting the inaugural Construction Safety Summit for construction safety professionals at any stage in their career, as well as manufacturers and distributors in the safety field. Outside of the training and seminar sessions, our opening and closing receptions and social events throughout the week allow professionals to network with those in the construction safety industry. Participants can also connect with UW-Platteville students seeking internships or full-time job opportunities.