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Faculty Internship Pays Big Dividends

Once you've earned your Ph.D., worked in industry, and then landed a faculty position with a prestigious university, you may think your internship days are over. But that was not the case for civil engineering's Assistant Professor Hisham Said, who spent three months interning with Blach Construction Company (BCC) last summer as part of a program designed by AGC's (Association of General Contractors) Education and Research Foundation to get professors out of the classroom and into the field.

Assistant Professor Hisham Said (center) with Brad Fannin, project manager, and Michael Blach, CEO, Black Construction
Assistant Professor Hisham Said (center) with Brad Fannin, project manager, and Michael Blach, CEO, Black Construction
Photo: courtesy of The Horvath Group

Said's internship encompassed specific experiences that would augment the construction management courses he teaches at Santa Clara: two months on a worksite as project engineer intern and one month spent in BCC's main office as a junior estimator. "At SCU, we enhance our students' education by incorporating real-life engineering experiences," he said. "Just as an internship enriches student learning, it can do the same for professors," Said noted. His work for Blach included managing and administering project communications, budgets, and schedules; regularly walking the site with the superintendent to observe and participate in discussions with foremen, laborers, and subcontractors; becoming facile with the latest methods for converting drawings to quantities of materials needed; and more. "My time with Blach provided me with lots of ideas for case studies to implement in my courses. Also, the construction industry is adopting new software and evolving and adding capabilities at a very fast pace; learning new programs and techniques helps me mentor and guide my students to acquire the necessary skills they will need for construction operations management, planning, and estimation."

According to Said, having such current field knowledge pays other dividends as well. "It gave me ideas on how to make my research more relevant, how I can involve undergraduates in research or guide them toward meaningful senior design projects." But Said and his students are not the only ones to benefit from his internship with Blach.

David Kramer, director of BCC Preconstruction Services reports that Said was a quick study and a great help "at a time when our backlog was getting severe. In addition, we were able to tap Hisham's expertise and have him teach other staff members our methods and software tools. Most important, we identified future opportunities for academic research that will support our prefabrication initiative and, possibly, some time/motion studies on our fieldwork. I’m looking forward to many years of innovating with Professor Said and his associates."

Reflecting on his summer internship, Said relayed, "It was a good experience to be in the shoes of our students, to see first-hand the types of situations and expectations they will encounter when they graduate. My goal is to encourage my students to pursue careers in the construction industry; this internship will greatly help me in my mission at SCU."