'CIM Field School on Alcatraz' and 'Powerful Patron Support for CIM Program'
By Kathleen McPartland
Phil Petermann, the Student Public Affairs director for the Concrete Industry Management Preservation Field School at Alcatraz Island, retrieved me from the dock at the San Francisco Ferry Buildings. The rest of the CIM crew was already working at the island’s “Puppy Stairs,” the site of the summer 2011 concrete rehabilitation project. They were part of a five-year Preservation Field School in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) for 10 weeks from June through August, under the guidance of Tanya Komas, director and program coordinator of the CIM program, and Jason Hagin, architect for the National Park Service.
When we were seated on the ferry headed to the island, Petermann began immediately to tell me how satisfying it was to be part of the field school. He learned so much about concrete rehabilitation and public affairs, his area to manage for the field school—and about the history of Alcatraz. On his iPhone was a picture of George “Machine Gun” Kelly, who, Petermann said, was such a model prisoner, he served as an altar boy in the prison chapel.
Petermann clearly had the Alcatraz bug. For all of its time as a federal penitentiary, prisoners spent a lot of time and energy plotting their escapes (36 people were involved in escape attempts). Now, more than 5,000 people a day wait in line to visit the famous island prison. It is a compelling destination because of its location, its architecture and its history, especially its 29 years, from 1934–1963, as a federal penitentiary.
We disembarked and passed the crowds listening to the NPS rangers begin the story of Alcatraz and telling visitors how to tour the island. We climbed the stairs to the balcony of the building that housed guards and families, then turned and climbed another stairway to another level where the team kept tools and lunches and had a shop. The aesthetic repair team was working on samples of concrete, testing colors and texture.
The Puppy Stairs were reportedly so named because they have smaller-than-usual steps constructed in order for the prison warden’s dog, a small Corgi with short legs, to be able to use them. The stairs traverse the hill between the lower level of the barracks for families and the upper level of the gardens and the prison. They were badly deteriorated from age, weather, and saltwater and have been closed to the public for many years.
The students began by assessing the entire stairway with input from structural engineers, industry experts, and the NPS historical architect who partnered with Komas in developing and running the field school. The students determined that they would need to replace two structural supports and carefully repair areas of the stair treads, railings, railing panels, internal supports, and pilasters. (The team from the previous summer had considered the Puppy Stair project, but quickly determined that there was no way the project could be finished in one summer. Instead the 2010 team chose to work on a smaller section of similar stairs above in “Officer’s Row” and complete a large patch in the concrete slab of the prison recreation yard.)
After the completion of the field school pilot year, NPS noted the students’ enthusiasm and work ethic and the high degree of industry support, and invited CIM to enter a five-year Field School Cooperative Agreement with them. Summer 2011 was the second year for the field school, and the first year of the contract. Andrew Billingsley, who graduated in May and was one of the students from last summer’s team, returned this year as the project manager.
At the beginning of the 2011 summer, rehabilitation experts from Texas A&M University, Komas’s alma mater, were invited to bring a state-of-the-art laser scanner to produce ultra-high resolution 3-D images of the staircase and many other critical sites on Alcatraz. Beyond laser scanning, industry patrons have donated materials, including cutting-edge new technology materials such as BASF’s zero cracking repair materials known as Zero-C and the latest in top-quality Hilti tools.
Eight CIM students were involved in the field school this summer. In addition to Billingsley, the project manager; Petermann, the director of public relations; and Aguilar, the aesthetic specialist, the following students each had an important management role to play: Brandon Agles, student leader; Kenneth Garcia, demolition specialist; Greg Hollingshead, equipment and scaffolding manager; Brian O’Hair, forming supervisor; Brian Peart, financial officer; and Sofia Salazar, safety officer. In addition, Zachary Fernandez, a recent videography graduate of CSU, Chico, videotaped the project and created several videos available on YouTube.
When we arrived at the site, the crew was mixing up some of the zero-cracking repair material with a handheld mixer in a five-gallon bucket. There was a lot of talk and directions to each other about how to do this safely. Safety Officer Sofia Salazar was especially vigilant, as there was a close call a week before in spite of following all safety precautions. “Safety is the main priority here; it doesn't matter what task you are working on,” said Salazar. “Working for the NPS gave us another level of necessity for vigilance—we were working in a highly visible area, where tourists could see our progress at all times.”
The team was getting ready to repair some architectural features on the lower railing. Wooden forms were in place (produced under O’Hair’s supervision). They first learned how to work with the zero-cracking material from BASF experts (who made the trip from corporate headquarters to participate in the project) and now are getting practice in the best way to handle it for this repair.
They’ve also been doing work several levels above, and there is fresh rehabilitation work to look at. We climb the stairs with Aguilar and Salazar to watch them wield the “Barracuda,” a specialized drill-like tool with steel brushes with which they carefully pit the surface of the new patch to achieve a surface texture similar to the historic concrete. The Barracuda and a large state-of-the-art sand blaster were donated for the project by Engrave-A-Crete. There are sections they’ve completed with mechanical pitting and layered applications of an orange, lichen-colored microtopping. It is difficult to tell the difference between the historic, weathered look and the treated new repairs.
Steven Aguilar, leader of the aesthetic repair team, talked about this aspect of the project: “We’ve learned techniques to help give the appearance of ‘aged’ concrete. It is such an unusual project in that we put in new concrete, but then we made it look old like the surrounding concrete on the island. Since this was like nothing our team had ever done, I learned to take a step a back and really analyze the environment to get a better understanding of how to make the new repairs aesthetically pleasing.”
The opportunity that establishing an ongoing field school on Alcatraz Island and providing CIM students with significant and historic concrete rehabilitation challenges, is unparalleled,” said Komas. “The partnership among the NPS, CSU, Chico, and industry leaders and decision makers is a powerful force for accomplishing the rehabilitation.”
Billingsley said that the historical aspect of working on Alcatraz was especially fulfilling. “We are contributing to future generations’ being able to visit this and see a piece of history. We helped preserve the staircase—it’s still here because we worked on it.”
By Tanya Komas, director and program coordinator of the CIM program.
The Concrete Industry Management program, a four-year Bachelor of Science degree at CSU, Chico, is now in its sixth year. It is with great enthusiasm that we celebrate the 2011-2012 academic year, in which total national and regional patrons will reach $2 million in direct cash contributions to Chico’s program. This level of support is unparalleled in similar CIM programs across the country. With this level of industry backing, CSU, Chico administration support, and dedicated faculty who maintain rigorous academics and coordinate industry-relevant learning opportunities, we ultimately are celebrating a record of tremendous student success.
The CIM program is one of five programs nationwide, and the nationwide program owes its existence to patrons from the concrete industry. In addition to the $100,000 per year contributed from the CIM National Steering Committee, Chico’s regional patron group, led by Doug Guerrero, is responsible for total cash contributions of nearly $1.4 million over the last six years. While the financial support allows unique opportunities for program development and students—including scholarships for all majors who maintain at minimum GPA—there many other “value added” aspects that make CIM uniquely industry connected. The patron contributions go beyond simply cash donations.
Patrons support the program with their “time, talent, and treasure,” said Jerry Hight, assistant dean of development in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management. “Often corporations will donate equipment or materials or they might support a particular arm of a program, but the CIM patrons give their time, not just to meet with the leaders of the program, but they provide students with opportunities to learn directly from leaders in the largest companies in the industry and offer summer internships.”
The CIM program offers a unique blend of business skills with an emphasis on all concrete, including manufactured concrete products, ready mix, and construction. Additionally, CSU, Chico CIM graduates take enough economics, business law, accounting, marketing, finance, information technology, and project management courses to earn a minor in business administration from the College of Business.
CSU, Chico, with patron support, has led projects at the World of Concrete convention in Las Vegas for two years that have involved CIM students from the other four CIM universities. In 2010, the students created two 10-foot towers representing the World Trade Center that were presented in a ceremony to the captain of the NYC Times Square Fire House, and in 2011, they created 8-foot tall replicas of the lighthouse at Alcatraz Island.
Most recently, beginning in September of this year, the CIM program has taken on a large community service project to rehabilitate a 100 year-old historic barn in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The project has included organizing a large crew of CSU, Chico students and local residents all volunteering their time to save the landmark “Red Barn.” The barn is situated in the middle of a working equestrian center in the Tennessee Valley area of the Marin Headlands. The rehabilitation is led by CSU, Chico in cooperation with the National Park Service and has involved generous support from local businesses and, once again, CIM patrons.
CSU, Chico is set to become the U.S. training center for STADIUM® software that predicts the service life of concrete infrastructure exposed to aggressive environments. In addition to providing training for concrete industry and engineering professionals, the CIM program will help develop training materials and curriculum modules for professional training and integrating STADIUM® into the classroom, use it for student projects, and conduct research with state departments of transportation and other public agencies.
The recent fall 2011 patron meeting on our campus was the largest to date, with more than 50 corporate and individual patrons as well as a large contingency of the National Steering Committee members, who engaged in a scheduled in-depth program review of the Chico program. This review adds a level of oversight leading to continuous improvement from an industry perspective.
With tremendous success over six years and a bright road ahead, the Concrete Industry Management program at Chico shines both on and off campus with its foundational support from industry. It serves as an academic-industry partnership model that leads to developing technically strong, business-savvy, industry-aware graduates who are committed to advancing their own careers and the industry they have joined as well as setting the stage for personal commitments to life-long learning and community service.