GeoEngineers Staff Teach UW Class for Second Year

For the second consecutive year, a group of GeoEngineers staff, led by Matt Smith, is team-teaching CM 432 Soils and Foundations, an upper-level construction management class at the University of Washington (UW). This unusual arrangement gives students a chance to learn directly from engineers and scientists in the industry and builds relationships among the next generation of construction professionals.

In 2021, the UW College of Built Environments and Construction Management was searching for a replacement teacher for the class, and Matt Smith’s name came up. The members of the steering committee were familiar with GeoEngineers and thought the students could benefit from the perspectives of engineers and scientists working in the field right now.

“We’re the subject-matter experts on soils and foundations, so we should be able to give them a really unique and valuable perspective on how these concepts relate to construction projects,” Matt says.

Teaching a senior college class is a time-consuming job, so Matt recruited a group of experienced GeoEngineers staff to split up the responsibilities. In addition to sharing the workload, this approach gives students the chance to learn from specialists on each topic. This coming semester Matt, Joe Laprade, Lindsay Flangas, King Chin, Steve Spencer, Bob Metcalfe, Dana Carlisle, and Lyle Stone will all be presenting.

The teaching team worked through a steep learning curve to prepare for last year’s class. They had to develop new content and learn how to teach a college class—and do it all remotely thanks to COVID guidelines. Fortunately, classes are now back in person, and things are simpler and more streamlined. Much of last year’s content is being reused, but in a simplified form that focuses more squarely on soil and foundation basics.

Last year, the class included a site visit, but this year the teaching team is bringing a project to the classroom. Three graduates of the UW Construction Management program played important roles on the project development team for The Jack, an innovative 145,500 sq. ft. mixed-use building in Pioneer Square, Seattle. Matt invited them to come explain the project and their work to the class.

Graduates of this construction program often go on to work for and lead development teams across the region, so introducing them to GeoEngineers now will build a foundation for future collaboration.

“Eighty percent of these students are going to end up with contractors we work with routinely, so we’re going to see them in the future,” Matt says. “The class really helps with name recognition and relationships.”

The Soils and Foundations class will run until the end of the Winter quarter in March. The format of the class next year is uncertain, but GeoEngineers is likely to remain involved in some capacity. Plans are underway to combine the class with another one, and if that happens GeoEngineers will step back and provide presentations and other content in a more reduced role.

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