Spotlight: Professor Scott Kramer
Each year, Auburn University awards faculty members for outstanding work in the areas of teaching, research and outreach. This past year’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach went to Professor Scott Kramer, Atlanta Auburn BSCI Alumni Committee Endowed Professor of Building Science in the McWhorter School of Building Science. Kramer’s ongoing outreach projects illustrate his dedication to helping others and his goal of preparing Auburn students for their professional careers.
Kramer, an Auburn alum who is in his 27th year of teaching, first began to offer service learning opportunities to students about ten years ago with an annual trip to Quito, Ecuador. Each year, Kramer heads to Quito for ten days with a group of sixteen BSCI students where they build a small urban church or building addition, cutting and tying rebar and mixing and pouring concrete by hand. Over the years, they have worked on four different projects that house hundreds of children in highly beneficial after-school programs. Upon returning to Auburn, Kramer has his students write reflection papers that reveal the impact the trip has made on them.
Kramer’s other annual projects include a trip to a tent city in Haiti, where students have designed a medical clinic and low-cost sustainable housing, and Panama. Over the past five years, students visiting Panama have designed and built a model home with tube steel columns and sustainable walls that can be made of bamboo, wood, brick or even old plastic bottles. This sturdy home is both affordable and sustainable.
One of Kramer’s most exciting developments has been the creation of a senior level course that is a graduation requirement for all Building Construction majors. BSCI 4360, Construction Field Lab, became a graduation requirement in the Fall of 2018. “We’ve been doing service projects for over 30 years,” said Kramer. “We’ve been pouring concrete slabs, helping with Habitat (for Humanity), building pavilions. But we really wanted to step up our game and give every BSCI student the opportunity to serve others.” In this course, students spend 400 hours over the semester working in teams to create solutions for the non-profit organization of their choosing. Past projects have included structures at Auburn’s Kreher Forest Preserve and Davis Arboretum, an obstacle course for Veterinary Medicine dogs and a bocce ball course for Paralympians. Kramer knows that students’ experience in this course is valuable preparation for real life upon graduation. “Construction firms always have projects that serve the community, whether it’s a Habitat house or building something for the community,” he said. “They’re probably going to be doing it in their professional careers, so we wanted to get a jump start on that while they’re here in school.”
A recent pair of gifts to the McWhorter School of Building Science is helping to make service learning projects like Kramer’s more feasible. The newly-built Robins & Morton Construction Field Lab on Samford Avenue includes a classroom, concrete pads, and indoor and outdoor bays where students can do pre-fabricated construction work. They can build wall panels in a controlled environment, load them on to a trailer and then assemble them on site. This is a huge help for out-of-town projects like veteran housing in Tuskegee and hurricane recovery on the Florida Panhandle. “None of this would happen without the Alison & Jim Gorrie Service Learning Gift that we got five years ago,” Kramer said. “Also, the gift from Robins & Morton Construction is upping our game to be able to do this prefabrication and have a dedicated space for the service learning class.”
Between teaching, research and serving others, Professor Scott Kramer’s days are full. His love of outreach work and his drive to see Building Construction students prepared for their professional careers make him one of Auburn’s top faculty members of 2019.
Atlanta Auburn BSCI Alumni Committee Endowed Professor
Ph.D. in Educational Technology, Purdue University
M.S. in Civil Engineering, Auburn University
B.S. in Civil Engineering, Auburn University
Pre-Engineering, Pennsylvania State University