April 16, 2020

ELECTRI International works closely with the academic community to identify and nurture younger faculty members who would bring a new perspective to ELECTRI’s research. At the same time, the opportunities ELECTRI offers them to help advance their careers is well-respected across the country.

An example of the relationships ELECTRI builds can best be observed in one of its current Early Career Award recipients, Anthony Sparkling, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Construction Management Technology, Purdue University.

Anthony began his electrical apprenticeship in Michigan in 1996. After many years in the trades, he enrolled at Eastern Michigan University to study Construction Management (CM). From 2007 to 2012, he worked full time in construction while getting his undergraduate degree. Next, while a Project Manager for Granger Construction Company (Lansing, MI), he continued with his advanced degree work in CM at Michigan State University (2012-2018). In 2014, he became the first student from the School of Planning, Design, and Construction and College of Agriculture to receive a coveted National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. This three-year engagement provided significant tuition and financial support for his studies.

After completing his Ph.D. in 2018, Anthony successfully made the transition to academia accepting a tenure-track position at Purdue University. Shortly after, his former advisor at Michigan State, Dr. Sinem Mollaoglu (Korkmaz), encouraged him to apply for an ELECTRI International Early Career Award (ECA). Dr. Mollaoglu had herself been an ECA recipient. He told ELECTRI “I was excited to submit my proposal: Harnessing Knowledge and Experience of Specialty Contracting Supervisors. I really liked the idea that this ELECTRI competition focuses on those of us early in our careers. The Early Career Awards can also serve as a springboard for other grants and research opportunities.”

Recently, he emphasized why he is so passionate about research in the construction industry. “I am committed to the concept that research has to be practical and relevant to the industry. We have to harness all the knowledge we can from our construction supervisors.”

ELECTRI asked him to expand on harnessing knowledge. Dr. Sparkling explained, “In my opinion, construction partnering is the key. Contractors and their management teams need to identify and leverage individuals’ tacit knowledge rather than explicit knowledge. They have to establish shared goals and move out of their silos. Team collaboration and goal alignment are the things that make a project successful – the intangibles that help us make good decisions.”

As he continues his teaching and his research, Dr. Sparkling sees many more investigative opportunities ahead. He is keenly interested in workforce development and succession planning. “Companies have to try to hold onto their top talent. At the same time, we must react and respond to get more people into the industry. A lot of people are looking for new careers. How can we get them into some aspect of the construction industry? We have to show them that construction is not only a practice but a business.”

For additional information about the ELECTRI International Early Career Award competition check here.