June 11, 2019

Clark Hokies Help Cultivate Next Generation of Construction Leaders

The motto of Virginia Tech is “Ut Prosim”, a Latin phrase meaning “That I May Serve”. It is deeply ingrained in the campus culture, and it is especially visible in alumni commitment to the university. During the spring 2019 semester, a team of Virginia Tech alumni at Clark Construction Group merged their passion for serving the community with Clark’s steadfast belief in cultivating the next generation of construction leaders. As a result, the newest graduates of Virginia Tech’s Myers-Lawson School of Construction (MLSoC) are poised to enter the workforce with hands-on, real-world experience for managing client relationships and creating winning bid proposals.

Matt Haas ('97) leads a discussion with students on
collaboration with design partners and managing risk. 

Clark proudly sponsored the Virginia Tech MLSoC Capstone Course during the spring 2019 semester. This course challenged students to apply the full breadth of their building construction knowledge in response to a real-world challenge. Teams responded to a design-build request for proposal (RFP) for a higher education laboratory facility, taking the approach of the general contractor and designer. The semester culminated with students pitching their well-researched approach to a panel of industry professionals.  

Project Manager and Virginia Tech alumnus Max Charamella led the engagement for Clark. “I thought it would be a great opportunity for Clark to sponsor this year’s Capstone Project; I took the Capstone Course as a student and enjoyed working on an actual RFP. Clark chose a $40M past project that was design-build delivery which was a manageable size for the students. The lab spaces and flexible classrooms were perfect for the students to showcase their design-build solution,” he said. 

Max, who also heads Clark Construction’s recruiting efforts at Virginia Tech, found it easy to assemble a team of Clark Hokies to guide students through the semester. Construction Operations Vice President Ken Keyser (‘97); Project Development Vice President Matt Haas (‘97); and Virtual Design and Construction Director Brian Krause (‘01) jumped at the opportunity. Senior Vice President Dave Tacchetti provided valuable insight, having led delivery of the Payden Academic Center to Trinity Washington University in 2016.

The Clark team served as a resource to students throughout the semester, coaching them to expand their thinking beyond the classroom. The alumni provided individual expertise on topics most aligned to their respective professional skillset via guest lectures. Krause taught a class in February where he instructed students how to best apply virtual design and construction methods to support the RFP process. Keyser presented a lecture on project logistics and scheduling, which examined field means and methods. Haas led a discussion with students on collaboration with design partners and managing risk. Charamella visited students later in the semester, joined by EYP – the project architect – to illustrate designer involvement as part of the RFP response.  Each offered insight into how Clark develops a winning approach as a design-builder.

Max Charamella ('13) led Clark's engagement
during this year’s Capstone Project.

Students posed thoughtful questions at each lecture, with the goal of developing the best approach for their team and project.  When asked about student interest during his visit, Matt Haas recalled, “The students were very engaged with the lecture and follow on discussion. It was clear they had a level of understanding about the industry and design-build work, which will prepare them to hit the ground running as they start their careers."

Student presentations took place on May 8th, where the Clark team emceed the event and led an industry panel tasked with selecting the winners. “Team Kansas Kontracting” scored top honors, followed by “Team Ohio” and “Team Oregon” respectively in second and third place. During the week, Max Charamella was recognized at the Myers-Lawson School of Construction Annual Banquet as the 2019 Building Construction Outstanding Young Alumnus.

Clark’s Virginia Tech engagement provided students with demonstrable skills and the confidence to embark on their professional careers in the construction industry. Reflecting on the experience Charamella said, “This academic year was particularly rewarding to the credit of our alumni participants, our relationships with the MLSoC Faculty, and the students’ excitement for learning and development. Clark is committed to participating in future meaningful engagements with Virginia Tech.”