Construction management student finds full-time job through program’s internship

Cassidy Marshall featured on-site with Meyer Najem. (Photo provided)

Cassidy Marshall recently started a job as an assistant project manager at Meyer Najem, an Indianapolis-adjacent construction company, just days after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in May 2024. The full-time job offer came after Marshall’s internship through the construction management program, which will be administered by Purdue University in Indianapolis starting fall 2024.

Marshall had planned out her college experience a high school student, but she hadn’t intended on going into construction. Instead, Marshall initially attended college a couple hours from her hometown in Mishawaka, Indiana, to study visual communication and find a career path in art along the way. After two years, that plan was not working.

“It just wasn’t my cup of tea,” she said. “I realized I didn’t want to be sitting in front of a screen all the time, and the amount of collaboration wasn’t what I really wanted. I thought about architecture because I love drawing and making things with my hands.”

Marshall changed her major two years into her academic career to construction management—the closest program she could find to architecture.

“To be honest, I had no idea what that entailed. But after reading the course descriptions, it sounded like something that involved problem-solving and working with people, something I would enjoy.”

Getting the faculty connection

Marshall quickly found value in the construction management program. Many of her instructors brought real-world experience from the field into the classroom. For the first time, she could visualize herself working in some of their roles.

“I had professors who were in the field while they were teaching, and those were some of my favorite professors,” Marshall said. “You can read a book and get the experience from there, but you only get the surface level. So I was living vicariously through my professors even before an internship happened.”

Marshall said faculty also offered advice, connected students to companies in the area, and even put on a robust career fair where students could meet potential employers before graduation. Matt Ray, a teaching professor and the director of facilities and construction management, says the hiring strategy in the department is intentional.

“We have purposely hired faculty and staff with real-world experience, which provides a wealth of practical knowledge for our students,” Ray said. “We are also blessed with a strong industry advisory board (IAB) that supports our students by volunteering as mentors for student capstone projects and as guest lecturers in the classroom. IAB members allow our students access to their job sites, giving students the opportunity to gain a practical understanding of a project coming together and work flow.”

The entire Meyer Najem intern cohort from Marshall's (center) time as a student. (Photo provided)

Building confidence through student internships

The construction management program currently requires one 400-hour internship during their junior year, which Marshall completed with Meyer Najem over the summer. She said she was “greener than green,” but the internship helped her build confidence in herself and her knowledge base. She had such a good experience that she asked to stay on working part-time for Meyer Najem throughout the school year, which that led to another summer work experience with the company the following year.

“They offered me a full-time job at the end of last summer,” Marshall said. “I knew I wanted to stay with them because of how much confidence they had in me and how many opportunities they presented to me.”

Ray said the majority of their construction management students remain in Indiana after graduation. Because of the close proximity of the Purdue Indy campus to their industry partners, the program enables many students to achieve what Marshall did and balance work experience with their studies.

“Our goal remains to prepare students to enter the workforce with the soft skills and technical skills they need to be successful in their careers and meet the needs of our industry partners,” Ray said.

Female students currently make up 10 to 15 percent of the program’s population, according to Ray. In partnership with the IAB, they actively promote the program at the Indiana School Counselor Association Conference each year to increase awareness of construction management education and seek greater diversity for the program and their industry partners.

The construction field has a small but growing population of women, now including Marshall. She says her transition into the male-dominated field has been positive thanks to mentor relationships with her professors, her Meyer Najem supervisor, and other women in construction she’s met along the way.

“In the beginning I didn’t consider being a woman in construction, but I’ve learned it’s okay to be uncomfortable for a moment, because it has helped me grow and develop a great passion for the industry,” Marshall said.

The Bachelor of Science in Construction Management program will soon join Purdue Polytechnic’s catalog of programs at the new Purdue Indy central campus. Ray says they hope students at both Purdue Indianapolis and Purdue West Lafayette will be able to follow the same plan of study and earn the same degree at both locations, allowing students more opportunities to connect with industry partners and jobs throughout the year while enrolled in classes.


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