Construction Engineering and Management


The Wisconsin Institute for Medical Research, built in 2005 by a project team headed by UW graduate and adjunct professor Jeff Niesen.

The Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program at UW-Madison is one of the most eminent programs of its kind in the United States. Graduates of the CEM program receive a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a Construction Engineering and Management emphasis. It is estimated that over 40 percent of Civil and Environmental Engineering undergraduate students pursue CEM as a program emphasis and career choice.

The CEM program also offers graduate studies at the Master’s and Ph.D level. The typical graduate student population is between six and ten students across both levels. Graduate students contribute as research and teaching assistants, and program alumni have found great success as professors at major universities in the United States and overseas.

The CEM program at UW Madison is supported by faculty that are leaders in research nationally, including Jeff Russel and Awad Hanna who were instrumental in the program’s founding in 1990 and have remained heavily involved ever since. Dr. Hanna is now the program chair, and has been instrumental in growing the profile of the CEM program through research and industry collaboration.

Industry collaboration is a paramount value of the CEM program. Over 30 credits of coursework within the program are taught by Professors of Practice — real world expert practitioners from major construction firms including Affiliated Engineers, Bechtel, BOLDT, JP Cullen, and M.A. Mortenson, among others. Students get the chance to learn directly from the industry about the skills that they will need to succeed, while networking with individuals they may one day collaborate with.

The industry partnership goes both ways. Of particular note are two endowed professorships from BOLDT and M.A. Mortenson, which, along with their historic record of financial and technical support have enabled the growth and success of this program.

Transitioning from the University to the Industry

Graduates of our CEM program are fully prepared to work in the construction industry. Some students will elect to continue with graduate school and further explore an important area of CEM, while others will leap into the professional world right away.

Both undergraduate and graduate students are given the opportunity to participate in research, either on a specific project with a graduate student and/or faculty member or as part of one of the affiliated research centers. For more information on the research centers, see the section below.

Additionally, all undergraduate students are required to complete an internship or co-op placement during their studies. This allows students to immerse themselves in company operations, and frequently leads to a full-time employment offer upon graduation. This experience provides a full-time, paid engineering opportunity interspersed with full-time undergraduate studies. CEM program faculty along with the College of Engineering Career Services team assists our students in obtaining a co-op or internship position.

Lastly, many CEM classes require a final project which is modeled on a real-world construction process, and endeavors to solve a real-world need. These projects necessitate that students seek out collaborators from the construction and capital projects industry in Madison, and leads to a valuable network of professional contacts upon graduation. Past projects include the redevelopment of lakefront parks in Madison, preservation and improvement of historic sites in Wisconsin, and projects that improve the university’s campus. In fact, a CEM student project became the basis for the multimillion-dollar renovation of Witte Residence Hall at UW-Madison.

Program Strengths

  • CEM faculty are national leaders that excel in academic research while providing a strong connection to industry partners through the Professors of Practice group.
  • Unprecedented industry partnership and engagement at UW-Madison are important reasons why students choose our CEM program and why the industry competes to hire CEM graduates.
  • The strong network of industry support through the co-op and internship program leads to a high rate of immediate employment in the industry upon graduation.
  • An extensive group of courses that cover core, state-of-the-practice, and visionary topics. Our curriculum breadth and depth exceeds other leading university CEM programs.
  • UW-Madison CEM graduates are among the top executive performers and leaders in the industry. Mortenson Construction considers the UW-Madison CEM program their top producing school and top choice for future recruiting. Other industry organizations agree.
  • Student organizations such as the Construction Club, ASCE student chapter, Engineers without Borders, and the CEE capstone design course provide superb leadership opportunities for undergraduates, which are valued in the workplace and postgraduate volunteer work, such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, etc. In fact, the culture of leadership and service permeates UW-Madison, which is why we are the leading institution for peace corps volunteers.
  • Students are encouraged and supported in their studies for the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam (FE) in their final year, which is the first step towards ultimately earning a Professional Engineering (PE) license.