At the November 6 CU Board of Regents meeting, College of Engineering, Design and Computing Dean Marty Dunn and The Vertex Companies, Inc. (VERTEX) Chief Learning Officer Russell Fitzpatrick led an interactive discussion “The Anatomy of a Partnership,” highlighting the college’s newly formed employer partnership with VERTEX, an architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) firm based in Maryland.
The college created two new online master’s degree programs for the AEC industry designed to directly serve the needs of VERTEX employees and, more broadly, working professionals in the rapidly growing construction industry. Students may pursue either a master of science/master of engineering in civil engineering with a construction engineering management specialization through the College of Engineering, Design and Computing, or a masters in management with a construction specialization through the CU Denver Business School. In essence, the program strives to create tech-oriented business graduates and business-oriented engineering graduates ready to advance in the AEC industry.
The new programs grew out of discussions between Caroline Clevenger, associate professor and assistant director of the CU Denver Construction Engineering Management program, and three senior-level VERTEX employees she was advising as PhD students.
“These employees quickly realized the value CU Denver and furthering their education brought to their company,” said Clevenger.
She also recognized that the college and VERTEX had similar visions for professional education, lifelong learning and engineering the smart cities of the future. The programs, developed by Clevenger and VERTEX CEO Bill McConnell, build upon the college’s ongoing efforts to create flexible and customizable online modular credentials that modernize and add value to graduate degrees. VERTEX views the program as an opportunity to attract and retain top talent in an extremely competitive market and to develop their workforce through valuable professional certifications and advanced degrees. The CU Denver Office of Digital Education also recognized the opportunity to make educational opportunities more streamlined for working students and their employers, and provided the college a multi-year grant to further develop the complete online program.
The CU Denver VERTEX partnership has several unique aspects. First, participants may earn stackable credentials, such as the Integrated Construction Management and Leadership certificate, that can build toward degree completion. Second, the College of Engineering, Design and Computing implemented a trial of streamlined, competency-based admissions, where students can gain access to the program by meeting certain minimum requirements and then demonstrating success in introductory courses. Finally, curriculum is co-created with VERTEX and other industry partners to include practical real-world examples and contemporary industry practices.
“This innovative partnership with VERTEX reflects our strategic commitment to transform professional engineering education and establish our position as an emerging leader,” said Martin Dunn, dean of the College of Engineering, Design and Computing. “With VERTEX we will co-create and deliver competency-based, industry-responsive education that promotes a culture of lifelong learning and creates tomorrow’s technical leaders. VERTEX is an industry leader recognized for their innovation and commitment to lifelong learning and this program deepens our partnership, building on our existing PhD education and research.”
After a pilot in spring 2019, the program officially launched fall 2019 with 16 new VERTEX employees enrolling as students funded by their employer.
“Lifelong learning has always been a core value of VERTEX at all levels of the organization,” said McConnell. “Partnering with CU Denver merges VERTEX’s practical learning approach with the excellent professional and academic learning of the university’s team of researchers and professors.”
The college is currently looking to grow the program with participation from other AEC companies.
At the CU Denver College of Engineering, Design and Computing, we focus on providing our students with a comprehensive engineering education at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level. Faculty conduct research that spans our five disciplines of civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and computer science and engineering. The college collaborates with industry from around the state; our laboratories and research opportunities give students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the professional world.