Cementing a Reputation

Dr. Heather Brown
Dr. Heather Brown

The Concrete Industry Management Department keeps its grads in the mix

Successful students who graduate from MTSU’s first-of- a-kind M.B.A. program with a specialization in Concrete

Industry Management (CIM) will have the background for active careers in the global, high-growth, science-driven concrete industry.

The University’s then-unique undergraduate CIM program began in 1996 as part of an effort to foster sustainability and a deeper institutional memory in an industry crucial to the global economy but in which skills have traditionally been passed from one generation of workers to another—even among those with advanced degrees—through on-the-job experience, not university classrooms.

The business “is still a good-old-boy industry on a local level, but 
the ready-mix truck is only part of the end product,” says CIM chair Heather Brown. “The cement industry is an international powerhouse.”

MTSU’s CIM Department is a powerhouse as well, especially when it comes to research. The program works with companies on projects like determining if a Tennessee-mined kaolin clay is suitable for concrete once mined, burned, and crushed into metakaolin; investigating the long-term durability and bond strength of thin overlay systems for bridge decks and highway applications; comparing different curing methods and products for pervious concrete to determine if plastic sheeting can be eliminated; conducting testing on three manufactured fibers and one recycled fiber for use in pervious concrete to increase freeze/thaw and abrasion resistance; and validating strength and absorption benefits of a colloidal
silicate densifier for interior polished floors. Importantly, much
 of the research produced by CIM is completed by undergraduate students and in intervals that match the speed of the ever-evolving concrete industry.

The program recently received new grants from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) totaling more than $200,000 with Dr. Zhifu Yang and Dr. Marcus Knight as principal investigators. CIM plays an important role for TDOT in projects such as gauging the life expectancy of roads and bridges and selecting the correct concrete to use on transportation projects. CIM also investigates new materials to be used on certain projects.

“It’s pretty unusual nationally to see students involved in state transportation projects like this,” says College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer. “It allows our students to do hands-on research activity, which is also important for the state.”

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