During the past three years, Purdue’s Building Construction Management program has been a hot topic among restoration industry professionals. Much of the excitement stemmed from the idea of the opportunities being developed for future leaders of the restoration industry to actually receive a bachelor’s degree with a specialization in disaster restoration and reconstruction.

In the recent months we have been fortunate to see these opportunities materialize into something real. Purdue Building Construction Management is proud to announce that the first official college level courses have been offered in the Disaster Restoration and Reconstruction Management (DRR) concentration.

This has been a long road, starting more than a decade ago when Bob Bonwell of Advantage Marketing came to Purdue BCM with an idea. The concept was centered on developing future company leaders for the restoration industry. The idea was well received, and the push was on to garner industry support for this offering.

Having raised more than $1.5 million in pledges from industry partners over the recent years has been a most rewarding endeavor, especially now that we can see the reality of this vision actually materializing.

Since July 2008, Purdue BCM has been forging ahead with the development of this one-of-a-kind degree concentration. It is not common knowledge, but development of a degree option requires a great deal of effort, especially when the concentration does not exist anywhere in the world against which to benchmark.

This unique opportunity has kept us very busy for the past year, as we met with numerous Restoration Industry Association professionals and continue diligently gathering relevant materials for course text and reference development.

We have simultaneously created close ties with RIA members and staff allies as we pursue identification of the relevant body of knowledge required for a restoration industry professional. BCM and the RIA partner in a research effort to confirm the body of knowledge for professional restorers. Results of the survey will be useful to the RIA as they evolve their Certified Restorer credentialing examination, and to BCM as we refine the content of the DRR courses. We are pleased with the progress made in the past year and continue to enjoy a great relationship with the restoration industry.

Our next steps will include developing and completing applied research in support of the Disaster Restoration and Reconstruction Management industry. We currently have one doctoral student working within this concentration. The dissertation research topic is on the element of trust in disaster restoration and reconstruction projects. Stay tuned, there is certainly more to come.

It is quite obvious that the program has come a long way when you consider we are actually conducting doctoral degree endeavors on related topics within the first year of rolling out the concentration. We are committed to this program and will continue to further our efforts and remain close with the restoration industry.

The opportunities are numerous and we must carefully choose our path. The first major objective was the development and delivery of the courses to support students within this concentration. Recognizing that the disaster restoration industry is not driven by the economy, an anticipated push of students in this concentration may be forth coming.

Thanks to the efforts of many people in industry and at Purdue, the Disaster Restoration and Reconstruction Management (DRR) concentration is off to a strong start. The first course, Introduction to DRR Management, was conducted last spring.

To maintain momentum, that first course will be conducted again this fall, along with the second course of the concentration, DRR Project Management. By offering the final course, DRR Industry Problem Investigation, in spring 2010, BCM remains on schedule to deliver our first DRR concentration graduates in May 2010.

The instruction exposes students to a wide variety of industry perspectives about techniques and equipment and favors no proprietary products over others. That way, when students are on the job, they can smartly select from alternatives as they think best.

In addition to the financial pledges that enabled its creation, some of the world’s most knowledgeable DRR practitioners have contributed guest lectures, course texts, ANSI standards, sage advice, software, and water loss inspection equipment. A day-long field trip hosted by nearby Americlean and Evans Garment Restoration gave students a detailed, eyes-on appreciation for the capabilities embedded in cutting-edge fire and water restoration. The infectious enthusiasm and generosity of the industry’s managers and experts for the services they provide impresses the DRR students.

Purdue students recently coordinated with the RIA to create the Restoration Industry Association: Disaster Restoration Chapter, the first-ever RIA student chapter. The RIA linkage gives students access to an extensive restoration industry database and professional certification classes.

In addition to speaking to RIA, BCM happily accepts other opportunities to “get the word out” about the concentration. We have also responded to countless telephone and email queries from prospective students and industry professionals. The exchanges inform us of concerns and issues that our curriculum and activities should address.

The most frequent query from industry seeks information about communicating internship and full-time employment opportunities to prospective Purdue restorers. Details of how to electronically post job information at no charge for prospective Purdue interns or employees is located at https://www.tech.purdue.edu/bcmjobs/employer.cfm.

One of our near-term objectives is obtaining recurrent donations for DRR student scholarships and student travel to various industry courses. If DRR is to impress prospective students, then we must offer them benefits for committing to DRR that students often get from alternative concentrations in BCM.

We’re also seeking industry manager mentors by December 2009 to offer their time and advice and voluntarily link up with students in the third and final course of the concentration, to guide them as they research an industry topic, write a paper, and orally present their work.

Responsibility for the administration of the course and oversight of the students remains with Purdue, but mentors will serve as “sounding boards” and counselors to enhance the student research and learning experience, perhaps with weekly or bi-weekly telephone calls or emails between mentor and student. This could be a way for restoration industry firms to guide investigations of special and focused interest to them.

In many ways, the sky is the limit for how this concentration will grow and evolve. We have often received calls asking if the DRR courses are web-based. They are not, but planning to advance in that direction seems appropriate, and we may begin to compile a web-based course as soon as summer 2010.

Our ‘pie in the sky’ is purchasing or building a house or laboratory facility near the West Lafayette campus that we can routinely flood and structurally dry as a matter of routine instruction of DRR students. We do not wish to make technicians of the students, but we know that an effective manager must understand the techniques and processes applied by those whose efforts are managed.

There are numerous opportunities presented each day for us at Purdue. Please know that we feel extremely fortunate for each and every one of them as we continue to grow to a point to where we can capitalize on more and more of these wonderful endeavors. Remember, baby steps turn into leaps and bounds.