Article No: 138

2006-05-02 14:25:08
Tech Talk
By: Ed Sauter

Walker Library Middle Tennessee State University

The nuts and bolts of building a footing or wall are best taught on the job, but where does one go to learn the ins and outs of running a concrete construction business? Many have learned from the School of Hard Knocks, but there is an alternative school of learning.

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., 30 miles southeast of Nashville, is home of the nation's only four-year bachelor's program in Concrete Industry Management (CIM). Launched in 1996, this program offers a well-rounded yet focused education for management professionals in the concrete industry. In the 2003-2004 school year, the total enrollment was estimated at 300 full-time students, and MTSU's 100th CIM student was scheduled to graduate in May.

Provided by the Engineering Technology and Industrial Studies department in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, this program attracts students from more than 20 states, as well as Belize and Guatemala. CIM graduates are employed in more than 17 states.

CIM was originally designed to prepare graduates in areas such as ready-mix and supplier industries; admixtures and chemicals; and concrete plant and manufacturing operations. In the fall of 2004, the University diversified the program to offer a concentration with coursework focused on concrete contracting.

The new concrete contracting concentration is a flexible program that accommodates a variety of students. There are traditional students who enroll in the program straight out of high school, as well as non-traditional students who obtain their degree while working full-time. In 2005, the CIM program will better accommodate its non-traditional students by providing the first two years' coursework through offsite correspondence. Students will attend nearby community colleges or universities to complete their general studies, business courses and concrete correspondence coursework. The remaining two years will require full-time study on the MTSU campus.

General courses include English literature, writing and research courses, history, math, sciences, economics and psychology. Business minor requirements include accounting, management, marketing, business law and finance courses. Concrete coursework includes industry courses, blueprint reading, fundamentals of concrete, materials and methods, concrete problems and other concrete-related courses.

The concrete contracting concentration adds such courses as site planning, layout and preparation, formwork design and computerized drafting, concrete project management, design and construction issues, concrete contracting, personnel management, field management and supervision.

Students benefit from supervised, practical work through internships in their second year. A support group, known as CIM Patrons, consists of representatives from industry manufacturers, concrete associations and other interested parties who provide guidance, funding and job opportunities. The CIM program and CIM Patrons work together to fully prepare students for professions in the concrete industry.

In addition to being the only one of its kind in the nation, the CIM program is also unique because it is largely supported by private industry. Yearly tuition at MTSU is less than $4,000 for students who live in Tennessee or in the 12 southeastern states in the Academic Common Market. The out-of-state rate is approximately $12,000. To help offset the cost, more than 15 scholarships, supported by companies and associations throughout the country, are available each year.

The program began through the tireless efforts of program director, Austin Cheney; tenure-track faculty member, Dr. Heather Brown; and the marketing and recruiting coordinator, Debbie Londre. Staff has been added as the program has grown and now includes one full-time instructor and two more tenure-track faculty members. Future plans also include the creation of a separate department at MTSU and, eventually, the construction of CIM's own building. The steering committee also supports the development of a Master's Degree program for Business Management with an emphasis on concrete. By using MTSU's success as a model, the staff and steering committee plan to expand the program to one or two additional universities in the next two years.

Middle Tennessee State University's CIM program is an excellent opportunity for contractors to hire quality, well-rounded and knowledgeable people to help run businesses. Educating those already employed by your company is also feasible with remote learning options. For more information, contact the CIM program director, Austin Cheney at noSpam("acheney", ""); acheney@mtsu.eduacheney at For general information about the program, visit

Editor's note: As part of our partnership with the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA), the following article by Ed Sauter, executive director of the CFA and a member of the National Steering Committee for the CIM program, is the eighth in a series on the basics of concrete foundation construction. For more information, visit or call 319-895-6940.