Fueled By Philanthropy: The SDSU J.R. Filanc Construction Engineering and Management Program Offers Unique Opportunities for Students

May 3, 2024
SDSU construction engineering and management students on a field trip to a San Diego construction project. (Photo by SDSU).
SDSU construction engineering and management students on a field trip to a San Diego construction project. (Photo by SDSU).

The San Diego State University College of Engineering J.R. Filanc Construction Engineering and Management Program, established in 2008, provides our students with the skills necessary to excel in the construction industry. This program would not be the competitive program it is today if it were not for the industry partnerships and generous donors that have contributed to the development of a hands-on program, designed to pave the way for student success, and fuel the construction workforce, and economy. 

Our many philanthropic supporters, including Harper Construction Company, dedicate their time and resources to enriching our program. They work alongside College of Engineering faculty and staff to ensure our students are well-equipped and competitive candidates for construction engineering and management roles upon graduation. 

Harper, a family-owned and San Diego-based firm, has not only hired SDSU alumni, but they have also helped establish crucial faculty positions, as well as student internships and fieldwork opportunities.

Harper Construction CEO and President and Associated General Contractors (AGC) Board Member Jeff Harper, and Founder and Chairman Ron Harper have a strong connection to the San Diego community. After following Aztec sports for as long as he could remember, Jeff and his family became interested in finding ways to support student success and the development of the San Diego economy. 

“I enjoy that it appears there's some more training all the way around (at SDSU), to get more of a complete skill set involved, which is what we need for the workforce, and particularly what we're doing as a general contractor,” said Harper.

With the training that the CEM program provides, students graduate with specific qualifications required to lead government-funded engineering projects. Some of these projects include F-35 airplane hangars, training facilities, recruitment barracks, and more. 

With San Diego County being home to several military bases, these degrees are highly recognized by contractors in the area. In addition, the company helped support the Jim Ryan Chair in Construction Management, which expanded the Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering Department to construction management degrees. Additionally, the endowed chair fund bolsters a high-level faculty position in the program. 

“The fact that we offer both degrees in Construction Engineering and Construction Management and have unwavering support of the local industry, makes our program very unique and successful,” said AGC Paul S. Roel Chair in Construction Engineering and Management Professor Thais Alves.

Preparing our students for industry

“The CEM program is particularly appealing to us as it trains students for, not just the engineering aspect of it but also everything else that’s involved such as letter writing, negotiations, and contracts,” said Harper. 

Alves sees firsthand how the SDSU engineers are prepared for real-world engineering roles. 

“Being located in a metropolitan area, we have unparalleled access to active construction sites and networking opportunities that usually translate into paid internships and later high-paying, fulfilling jobs,” said Alves. 

Cultivating a well-rounded program and the next generation of engineering leaders 

Philanthropic support has enhanced the program in a multitude of ways, allowing the number of opportunities available for students to increase substantially. 

For instance, our student engineers participate in field trips to public and private contracting organizations, course assignments which require site visits to ongoing projects, and networking events that feature guest speakers from industry. 

In addition, the majority of students graduate with at least one internship on their resume, and multiple projects and competitions that they can speak to. 

“Our donors' support is essential to the success of the program as we can continue to be competitive with other schools, attract the best faculty to enhance our students' education, and offer hands-on experiences that would not be available without their support,” said Alves. 

The donor impact is far-reaching and has gained momentum from local organizations and industry leaders on the AGC San Diego Board of Directors such as President of Marathon Construction Company, Mike Furby; CEO of J.R. Filanc Construction Company, Mark Filanc; CEO of AGC, San Diego Chapter, Eddie Sprecco; Executive Vice President of AGC, Jim Ryan, TC Construction Company Owner, Austin Cameron, and others. 

“We hope this program will continue to grow as it has over the last few years and we are excited about the AGC’s vision to help,” said Harper. “It’s been good talking about supporting the program with the AGC Board of Directors. It comes up as a typical agenda item. Mike Furby and Mark Filanc have been really up there at the forefront [regarding philanthropic support], and that gets contagious and encouraging as more people become engaged,” he said. 

To provide a philanthropic gift to support the College of Engineering, contact Senior Director of Development Kate Carinder at [email protected].

Categorized As