Volunteer-oriented construction majors receive international honor

By University Communications
July 13, 2015
Members of the UW-Stout honor society for construction majors stain the playground structure at River Heights School in Menomonie.

Photo: UW-Stout students stain the playground structure at River Heights School.

Each academic year, several thousand University of Wisconsin-Stout students donate their time, talents and financial resources to help others on campus, in Menomonie and in west-central Wisconsin.

One group of students has received special recognition for its efforts.

Sigma Lambda Chi, a professional honor society made up of 15 students majoring in construction, recently was named the International Chapter of the Year at the Associated Schools of Construction annual conference.

The award is the ninth in the past 12 years for the ambitious UW-Stout chapter.

"It's a pretty prestigious award, and we're very excited to have won it again," said Joe Zanotti, chapter president. Zanotti is a senior from Hartland.

UW-Stout was competing against 77 other university and college chapters around the world, although most are from the U.S. The competition includes many large schools, such as Purdue, Auburn, Texas A&M and Colorado State.

Volunteer service by chapter members was one of the big reasons UW-Stout won, Zanotti said, but the chapter also made a major donation to Bridge to Hope, a Menomonie-based shelter for victims of domestic violence.

Each year the chapter holds a golf outing and fundraiser, using its connections with construction companies in the region. Typically, the chapter uses proceeds to fund chapter activities for the year.

This year half of the proceeds, about $3,500, was donated to Bridge to Hope. "That was pretty cool," Zanotti said. "They can really use the donation."

The chapter also teamed up in the fall, as it does each year, with local contractors for the Heat's On event. Students go to homes of needy families to tune up and check their furnaces before winter. Last fall, Sigma Lambda Chi went to the homes of 15 veterans in the region.

Another volunteer effort the chapter undertook during the 2014-15 academic year was sealing treated wood on the large playground structure at River Heights School in Menomonie. The project took the chapter two days, Zanotti said.

Sigma Lambda Chi also began a new initiative this year, high school outreach. The chapter prepared a Power Point promoting UW-Stout and its programs, and members gave presentations at their former high schools.

"We love UW-Stout, the program we're in and our professors," Zanotti said. "We talked about the various programs offered. A lot of kids don't know where UW-Stout is."

Other chapter activities included:

  • Hearts and Hammers: Teamed with Minneapolis contractors to do yard work and repair homes for Twin Cities families in need
  • Holiday Giving Tree: Helped a needy local family, buying Christmas presents for two young daughters of a single mother
  • Adopt-A-Highway: Picked up trash along a two-mile stretch of Highway 25 north of Menomonie, part of an annual project
  • Polar Plunge: Donned hard hats and safety vests before jumping into Tainter Lake, raising $500 for Indianhead Special Olympics.
  • Heavy Civil Day: Helped coordinate construction department seminar, attended by 90 students, on the highway industry
  • Salvation Army: Rang bells for charity during the holidays

The chapter limits membership to the top 20 percent of students in the construction program. Students must apply. This year the chapter had nine new members.

"We're selective. We want kids who really want to help. It feels great helping people. The construction industry puts a lot of focus on giving back," Zanotti said.

The faculty advisers for Sigma Lambda Chi are Assistant Professor Mike Bowman, director of the construction program and chair of the construction department;and Tim Becker, associate professor.

UW-Stout to host 2018 conference

The chapter's award was accepted at the conference in Puerto Rico by Assistant Professor John Killingsworth, director of the graduate program in construction management.

Killingsworth also presented a proposal to have UW-Stout host the annual conference along with the Midwest consortium of universities with undergraduate construction programs.

The consortium was awarded the 2018 event, and UW-Stout will be the site host.