Students gain plenty of “real-world” experience in concrete construction management and the preservation of historic concrete structures while interning in one of two programs led by Tanya Wattenburg Komas ’05, an architecture Ph.D. graduate from Texas A&M University.
Komas, an associate professor in the College of Engineering at California State University-Chico, directs the university’s Concrete Industry Management Program and mentors students at the Preservation Field School at Alcatraz — the San Francisco Bay island home of the once notorious federal prison, which is now a popular tourist attraction.
For her work in the two programs, Komas was cited in the Feb. 5, 2013 edition of Construction Magazine as one of the five most influential people in the concrete industry.
The CIM program at Chico State, one of five such programs in the U.S., prepares students for management careers in the concrete industry, blending business training with technical instruction and hands on experience with all forms of concrete. The students learn about manufactured concrete products, ready mix, construction contracting and the proper use of heavy construction materials and tools. Their education is enhanced with a mandatory summer internship working in the concrete industry.
“The industry needs young people who can jump in on the big issues, move straight into jobs and careers in the industry,” she said. “As CIM graduates, they have the ability to make change happen quickly. They have found their passion for concrete in college, they are already familiar with industry leaders, and they know that this is what they want to do.”
At the Alcatraz preservation school, which Komas co-founded through Chico State with the National Park Service, student interns manage repairs to 100-year old concrete structures at the former prison site, a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
“Students have to be prepared to think on their feet and perform every day,” said Komas, who mentors the students interns. “There are no easy answers when combining academic/industry best practices and introducing cutting-edge repairing materials and methods to century-old concrete at a historic site.”
They are held accountable at every level, she said, including project planning and implementation, talking with tourists and moving materials onto and around the island.
“It’s real-world, they have to make decisions and be prepared to defend the results,” she said.