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ASU construction major builds and improves on career

Army vet Darrell Stanley returns to school, will graduate with master's of science in construction management

Man in construction hat

December 12, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

ASU student Darrell Stanley knew in his early 20s that he wouldn't always be able to rely on his body for a steady paycheck.

After an honorable discharge from the Army, Stanley became a certified refrigerator repairman in 1996. Several co-workers told him welcome aboard, but to also start looking for another job.

“They told me about their back problems and physical ailments as they got older, and that I should use my GI Bill to get a college degree,” Stanley said. “It took 18 years, but I eventually got the message.”

The 42-year-old member of the Navajo Nation received his bachelor’s degree in construction management from Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in 2011. Tribal leaders back home in Kayenta, Arizona, took note of his 3.3 GPA, and made him an offer.

“They said they’d pay for my education if I went back to school to get my master's, so I took advantage of it,” said Stanley, who works as a construction manager for the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community.

Stanley has lived up to his end of the agreement and this week graduated with a master's of science in construction management.

He says he’s thankful to ASU for teaching him “the realistic side of construction, what’s going on now and what will happen in the future.”

Stanley also answered a few questions about his experience at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I had been in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) trade for 18 years and as I got older my perspective changed. My days of climbing roofs and crawling into attics became challenging. This was when I decided to go back to school to pursue a professional career in construction management.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I understand that education is a key component to be a leader in construction management. Knowing that employers seek managers who can solve problematic issues by innovation and experience. The ASU Del E. Webb School of Construction Master’s Program was my answer to widen my awareness and perspective.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I am aware that the construction industry is moving in a new direction and new advance cutting-edge technology has innovated construction methods. It brought better decision making, which resulted in projects becoming smarter. This trend has made construction faster, lower cost for the owner and has tremendously improved on building sustainability and functionality. ASU is the school to prepare me.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Study now and sleep later.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I had a lot of interesting discussions and collaborated with a lot students at the College Avenue Commons atrium. I consider this to be my favorite place.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am the father of three children. I plan to continue to guide my children to earn their degree as well, and they are all enrolled at Mesa Community College. I also plan to support my wife as she will be pursuing her master’s degree in the spring of 2017.

Also, I intend to fulfill my time mastering the processes and procedure of construction. I have a passion for building image modeling and learning how to effectively incorporate it into construction. I plan to spend my time collaborating and interacting with companies that have mastered the use of BIM.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: To continuously find products or materials that can be reused repeatedly instead of using it once and dispose of it. For example, plastic grocery bags have been recycled and re-engineered into weather-resistant 2-by-4’s. 

Top photo: Darrell Stanley completed his master's of science in construction management while both working full time and taking a full course load. He stands outside Wells Fargo Arena shortly before the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering convocation, Dec. 13. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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