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Francisco Ruiz-Tatum and Wendy Bohn gained real-life experience in construction engineering through internships at Clark Construction. Francisco Ruiz-Tatum and Wendy Bohn gained real-life experience in construction engineering through internships at Clark Construction.

The Ties that Bind

Industry support shapes future real estate, construction engineering professionals.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

This story is featured in the summer 2014 issue of 360:The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

On the first day of class each semester, Ken Walsh tells his construction engineering students they’re going to make a lot of money when they graduate — and he intends to ask them for some of it.

It’s Walsh’s way of cultivating Aztecs who will give back to San Diego State University, and he has good reason to believe he is planting seeds in fertile soil.

Walsh knows that many of his students will find their first jobs in San Diego. Chances are they will join the close-knit industry whose philanthropic vision has fueled the growth of SDSU’s J. R. Filanc Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program.

Across campus, in the Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate, students have numerous opportunities to interact with industry professionals who will hire and mentor them as they build their careers.

The co-existence of a construction engineering and management major in the College of Engineering and a real estate major in the College of Business Administration’s finance department benefits SDSU students in both areas of study.

Not only are San Diego industry leaders financially involved in these programs; many also serve as guest lecturers, mentors and eventual employers for the newly minted professionals graduating from SDSU.


The McMillin Center’s unique Day 1 program offers monthly Saturday workshops in the offices of real estate professionals, where students learn specific skills that supplement their academic portfolios, such as residential site planning, valuation and commercial property management.

Students enrolled in the J. R. Filanc Construction Engineering and Management program find internships through SDSU alumni and acquire real-world knowledge during field trips to construction sites managed by local Aztecs.

Mark McMillin, ’79, president and CEO of the Corky McMillin Companies, is chair of the McMillin Center’s advisory board. He played a key role in the $1.5-million family gift that established the center.

A donor to both the real estate and CEM programs, McMillin sees opportunities for “cross-fertilization” between the two.

“It’s important for construction engineering majors to learn aspects of finance and for real estate majors to understand the practical side of construction,” said McMillin. “SDSU can offer students a complete set of skills.”

Show of support

Mark Filanc, president and CEO of J.R. Filanc Construction, also sees a natural synergy between the two programs as well as an opportunity for San Diego business leaders to unite in supporting them.

“We need to be sure all factions of the building and construction industries realize the benefits and understand how they can become involved in the growth of these programs.”

A gift from Filanc’s parents, Jack and Jane, helped establish the CEM program in 2005, while funding from other members of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) enabled SDSU to hire Walsh as AGC-Paul S. Roel Chair of Construction Engineering.

In a recent show of industry support, nearly 400 people attended the third annual CEM gala in April, doubling last year’s attendance and raising $146,000 for SDSU.

“The industry has a clear, united vision of how we can help the program grow,” Filanc said. “We have a good partnership with SDSU.”