I want to be 20 years old again and go to a prison. Actually, I want to work at a prison—as part of the Alcatraz Island Preservation Field School, which is sponsored by the Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program at California State University, Chico. The Field School, which just completed its 3rd summer, was a group of 8 students and a supervisor who spent 10 weeks repairing damaged concrete at the island prison. Chico State professor Tanya Komas, who leads the CIM program and coordinates the Field School, says that repair work is sometimes considered a negative task, almost a confession of defeat. But the Field School is changing that. The students learn that concrete repair takes skill, patience, and creativity as they try to match the new concrete to the existing at the country’s most popular national monument.
“I am extremely passionate about this and very excited to move it along and expand so that it can serve as a truly unique resource for the industry,” says Komas. Her hope is to increase the number of students involved and to establish Field Schools at other historical concrete sites. “One thing I plan to do is to form partnerships with other universities around the country and even internationally to make the opportunity available to students and professors from other locations.”
A unique part of this program, and of the entire CIM program, is the industry connection, which is rare at universities. The CIM program has been strongly supported by a concrete-industry coalition for more than 15 years, including the popular World of Concrete auction, which raises over $200,000 each year. From the original program at Middle Tennessee State University, the CIM program has expanded to five schools in Tennessee, New Jersey, Arizona, Texas, and California, with most graduates staying in the concrete industry. This is just another example of why the concrete industry will remain strong coming out of this recession.