Industry Advisory Council Assists Building Science Faculty

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Faculty in Auburn’s McWhorter School of Building Science are careful to ensure that the course content they teach reflects the rapidly changing landscape of the construction industry.

The school has an Industry Executive Board (IEB) to provide advice and feedback for this purpose. Three years ago McWhorter School of Building Science (BSCI) head Richard Burt decided he also wanted to garner industry information from young alumni and created the school’s Industry Advisory Council (IAC). This group provides an opportunity for recent BSCI graduates to be involved with the school as they help faculty to learn more about current challenges and changes in construction. 

The IAC holds regional meetings for members to come together and share information with faculty and administrators. Often hosted by major construction companies, these meetings have been held in Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, Fort Worth and Auburn. During the day-long sessions, Burt spends the morning providing attendees with an update on the state of the program, and in the afternoon the IAC members give him feedback. The IAC most recently met this past May in Nashville and is planning a late 2021 meeting in Texas. 

In addition to general industry knowledge, Burt is looking for IAC members to share information on specific subject matters. “We’re looking at reviewing the content of what we teach in the areas of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems as well as sustainability,” he explained. Mechanical and electrical systems are changing rapidly because of new low voltage technologies, and in the future Burt would also like to focus on communication, both in terms of interpersonal communication and the challenges faced in communicating on a construction site. 

Associate Professor Mark Tatum says that the IAC is an asset to faculty in terms of keeping the school’s curriculum up to date. “The more recent graduates who are members of this council have the advantage of knowing the content of our recent curriculum and the challenges facing upcoming graduates as they enter the industry,” Tatum stated. “It’s just another reason Auburn is the leader in construction education.” 

Burt says that while the feedback he receives from the IAC is invaluable and the workshops the group does are enjoyable, his favorite part is seeing former students who have now grown into industry professionals. “The great thing is that I get to see our graduates after they’ve gone, and I can see the changes in them and how competent and confident they are to speak on technical matters.”

Related people:
Richard Burt, Mark Tatum