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Summer camp empowers young women, inspires them to pursue construction management
She Builds participants. L to R: Jose Faria, chair of the Moss Department of Construction Management; Natasha Wedderburn, academic advisor at College of Engineering & Computing; and student volunteers.

Summer camp empowers young women, inspires them to pursue construction management

August 18, 2021 at 11:39am

Twenty-five 13 to 18-year-old girls, industry guests and Moss Department of Construction Management alumni, students and faculty recently gathered at the 2021 She Builds Summer Camp. The camp's mission is to expose girls to the field of construction management and demonstrate the endless possibilities of building a successful career in the field.

The agenda for this year's camp— held at the FIU College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) and sponsored by the Moss Department of Construction Management—was jam-packed with activities, including faculty sessions, an alumni panel, an industry guest panel, industry led leadership activities, a jobsite visit, and an interactive 3D printing workshop experience with the FIU Miami Beach Urban Studios.

Natasha Wedderburn, an academic advisor at the College of Engineering & Computing, is the creator of She Builds. Wedderburn strives to debunk myths that construction only means hard hats and manual labor. There is also the project management aspect. She wants girls to feel confident that they can enter a non-traditional field for women.

Hands-on faculty sessions were essential in teaching the girls about some of the areas within construction management. Nipesh Pradhananga, associate professor at the Moss Department of Construction Management, conducted a construction safety technology activity featuring VR headsets, and Lufan Wang, assistant teaching professor in the department, conducted a construction jobsite productivity activity revolving around teamwork and problem-solving.

FIU alumni and students played a key role in showing that there is more to construction than meets the eye and that women play an integral part in it.

“Women play a crucial role in construction, and it is becoming the norm every day," said Carina Cortes ’19, an assistant project manager at Link Construction Group. "We provide an eye for detail, compassion when needed, and monitor the site alongside the superintendent.”

Cortes participated in the She Builds alumni panel along with five other alumni panelists and two student co-hosts. The panelists offered general advice on the industry, insight on good skills to utilize, and guidance on avenues to take within the construction industry.

The camp also held an industry guest panel with five women representing Messam Construction, Ram-Tech Construction, Lennar Construction, Moss and Benchmark Construction Consulting & Management. The panel was led by FIU alumni co-hosts.

The panelists did not hold back in sharing tips on developing useful skills and overcoming challenges.

“Emotional intelligence and soft skills are so important. Relationship building is essential for contracts and negotiations. Listen and be secure, confident, calm and aware,” said Sasha Secco Alvarez, vice president at Moss.

When asked why construction management, Angela Messam, managing partner of Messam Construction, and Lucia Soria, owner and president of Ram-Tech Construction, both said it chose them.

Hands-on leadership activities with industry guests were also a part of the camp. Robins & Morton held a leadership pizza activity that revolved around persuasion, negotiation, communication and compromise. Women Impacting Turner (WIT) was also responsible for conducting a leadership development activity.

Scarlette Barrios, Women Impacting Turner (WIT) leader and accounting manager at Turner Construction Company, said: “If I had known about construction operations as a career path, I would have done that.”

On the last day of the camp, the She Builds participants did a jobsite visit to the Parkview Housing Phase II project at FIU’s main campus and got a taste of how to dress and act when out in the field.

At the end of the She Builds summer camp, the girls received certificates of completion and a fresh understanding of the construction industry and all the avenues available within it.