How the SIUE Construction Management Program came to be

How the SIUE Construction Management Program came to be

The SIUE Construction Management Program has gained national recognition as one of the top construction management programs in the nation. And we’re proud to be rooted in its history. The story of how it came to be speaks to how highly we value building smart. It’s our mantra, and it’s in everything we do. But building smart doesn’t start with methods, mantras or technology; it starts with people. You can set out to build a masterpiece, but if you don’t have the designers, planners, managers and engineers to make it happen, you’re in for a rough ride. The SIUE CM Program supplies contractors with the kind of talented, well-trained builders who can execute build-smart construction projects — even in the face of rapid technological change. 

Once upon a time when disco ruled and bellbottoms were cool…

Back in 1975, where our story begins, contractors hammered away as usual, building the world’s structures. But they had a problem — a happy problem, but still a problem. The 50s, 60s and 70s saw a volcanic eruption of new technology, materials and building methods that caused a global shift in the construction industry. While the technology allowed us to build better and build faster, it meant fewer and fewer workers knew how to use those new tools. The constant technological change left contractors facing a serious shortage of talent.

The need was great. With companies totally understaffed across the board, contractors lacked the necessary skillsets to carry out construction projects. Due to technological change, construction engineers needed both a serious engineering background and strong business acumen to be effective. But back in the disco days of 1975, you’d have to get an overly design-heavy engineering degree and an expensive MBA to attain that broad skillset. It was dire straights for builders. 

That is, until our local university led an education movement that would shape the future of the construction industry.

A leader, a team, and an idea

In 1975, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) set out to give construction companies the talent they needed. The University started creating an undergraduate program to churn out entry-level construction engineers who would have a blend of expertise in construction, engineering and business. And we’re proud that our founder, Ralph Korte, played a pivotal role in making it happen. 

At the time, Ralph Korte held a spot on the education committee of the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and served as President of the Southern Illinois Builders Association (SIBA), the AGC’s local affiliate. 

Given his stature in the construction industry, Ralph Korte, a 1968 graduate of the SIUE School of Business, was asked to serve on the SIUE Foundational Board. Of course, he graciously accepted. In his new role, he started the dialogue that would eventually lead to the creation of SIUE’s undergraduate Construction Management Program. 

On May 21, 1975, SIBA Executive Director Wayne Barber Jr., who worked directly with Ralph Korte, sent a formal letter to SIUE President John Rendleman requesting the creation of a construction-specific degree program. 

In July 1975, President Rendleman formally requested that SIUE’s Curriculum Council research a construction-specific program and provide him with a recommendation. On September 15, 1975, they presented a formal curriculum proposal to the SIBA Education Committee. After direct input from the SIBA and the AGC, the curriculum was revised and submitted as a formal New Program Request on December 1, 1975. The program was to begin in Fall 1977.

Making an idea a reality

The wheels were turning. But the New Program Request didn’t receive approval to begin in Fall 1977 due to budget constraints and other university concerns. Nonetheless, Ralph Korte, the SIBA, the AGC, and the Curriculum Council all pushed ahead undeterred. The Curriculum Counsel researched the construction degree program even more heavily, further refined the New Program Request, and resubmitted it in November 1977.

The program began in Fall 1978, and the final product was a “Bachelor of Science in Construction.” The program, which would come to define the industry’s training standards, centered on a mathematics and science core and also comprised of core construction courses and a series of business courses that satisfied the requirements for a Minor in Business.

A donation provided one of the biggest keys to getting the program’s approval. Under Ralph Korte’s direction, the SIBA pledged $15,000 per year for the first three years of the program and kept open the possibility of further contributions. With the donations in hand, the SIUE Administration sent its recommendation for program approval to the SIUE Board of Trustees on July 13, 1978. 

The SIUE Construction Management Program embraces tradition and change 

The program, now called Construction Management, has changed its curriculum over time to track changes in high school curriculums and employer needs. But the principle of the program has remained the same: to turn students into graduates with the necessary skillsets to be effective construction engineers. We’re proud that our local university, SIUE, has one of the nation’s top construction degree programs. And we’re proud that The Korte Company is part of that program’s rich tradition.


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