Construction Management degree helping alumni climb ladder
To say Amanda Ellsworth has worked her way up the ladder at Truman Medical Centers (TMC) would be an understatement. In just 10 years, she has gone from working in a kitchen to designing and planning some of the company’s newest building projects.
“I think I’m most proud of how far I’ve come,” said Ellsworth, 28. “I literally came from doing everything from washing pots and pans and scrubbing the floors to now, getting to help design and build things.”
Ellsworth, a construction department coordinator at TMC, developed many of the skills she uses at work at Metropolitan Community College-Business & Technology, where she has earned associate degrees in Construction Management and Computer-Aided Drafting and Design.
The William Chrisman High School alumna and Independence resident came to MCC-Business & Technology because the college was more convenient then her previous school.
“I had four classes left, but when the head of the department stepped down, everything got moved around and the classes there didn’t fit my schedule,” Ellsworth said. “I was getting really frustrated, but I saw that MCC had the program, and that’s when I started taking classes to finish my degree. It’s a lot more convenient for me and my family.”
A wife and mother to a 6-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, Ellsworth balanced not only family and work, but also taking three or four classes a semester to graduate. Despite the hectic schedule, she performed so well in the classroom that she received the 2017 Student of the Year Award in Construction Management at the MCC-Business & Technology Awards Ceremony in May.
“That was nice, but it was a little embarrassing for me because I’m a pretty shy person,” she said. “It was nice to be recognized and for somebody to understand the hard work involved in class and what was going on outside of the classroom with family and work.”
At TMC, Ellsworth has many of the duties of an assistant project manager. She is managing a project to remodel a building featuring some of the company’s behavioral health programs and a new gym and locker rooms.
In addition, she helped to build out a surgery center and pain management clinic, as well as a suite in the dermatology clinic, among many other projects.
“Construction management is all about organization and planning,” she said. “As long as you can do those two things, you can manage projects. I love the health care industry, and I like that I’m helping people. Knowing that the CT machine I just replaced is going to help a lot of people means a lot.”
Mark Gardner, the program coordinator who nominated Ellsworth for the Student of the Year Award, said, “Amanda’s standard is excellence, and she will not accept anything else. She was diligent on her studies and frequently asked the questions that few other students contemplated. We are pleased to have had Amanda as one of ours and will keenly follow her as her career progresses.”
Ellsworth plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree online through Indiana State University, further honing her skills as a project manager.
She also attended MCC immediately after high school, earning an associate’s degree in CADD through the A+ program, which covers the tuition of Missouri high school students who are eligible.
To be eligible, you must enroll full-time (12 credit-hours or more per semester) within 48 months of graduation, have a 2.5 GPA, 95 percent attendance rate and 50 hours of unpaid tutoring or mentoring, as well as a record of good citizenship.
“Amanda is an example that MCC is a great fit for anybody,” said Dr. Jackie Gill, president of MCC-Business & Technology. “She worked hard and took advantage of opportunities that fit her schedule and career goals on our campus. We’re thrilled to see her enjoying so much success.”
Armed with a strong work ethic and ambition, Thomas Cuny steadily climbed the ranks at L.G. Barcus and Sons, Inc., where he has worked since graduating from Platte City High School in 2002.
As he continued to climb the ladder, Cuny asked one of the company’s executives what he needed to do to take the next step.
“I was always asking about my future and career with this company, because I like working here and want to stay here,” he said. “Our vice president kept pushing school, so I started researching it.”
That research led him to Metropolitan Community College, where he began taking classes online and at the Business & Technology campus.
“I started in 2011, taking classes at nights and weekends, and I finished in 2015,” Cuny said. “It was hard, at times. But once I got into the routine of school, work and having kids, it was easier. One thing I knew about myself is that I had to keep going. I knew that if I stopped and took a semester off, it’d be easy not to go back.”
Cuny kept going until he had an associate of applied science in construction management, a degree that has helped him ascend to yard superintendent at L.G. Barcus and Sons, which specializes in auger cast piling for foundations, driven piling, heavy construction and bridge work.
Cuny’s duties range from supervising a staff to maintaining equipment. At 31, he has ascended to a management position at a young age.
“One of the things I had to learn and that MCC helped with a great deal is managing personalities,” he said. “Getting an associate’s degree has been nothing but a positive for me. It was a long-term investment, and it has paid off.”
Cuny said Caleb McCandless, an adjust instructor in construction management and professional development manager at the Kansas City Builders Association, made a significant impact in the classroom.
“The great thing about Mr. McCandless is that you relate to him,” Cuny said. “Everything he caught was relatable to what I do at work. He worked in down and dirty jobs building houses, and he worked his way up while having a family and going to school. He kept improving himself, which is pretty admirable.
“He always finds a way to help his students. I’m not sure where he finds the time, but he does.”
Cuny’s interest in the trades began in high school, where took welding classes at Northland Career Center. After high school, he sent his resume to the top 50 construction companies in Kansas City.
That initiative, and an education at MCC, has helped him work from the ground up to yard superintendent a little more than a decade later.
“I never see myself leaving this company,” Cuny said. “I love my job and will work where the company sees I’m best-fit. I’m grateful for this company and what I learned at MCC.”