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Chico State

Office Hours: Concrete Industry Management Professor Mohammed Albahttiti

A student (left), wearing an orange safety vest, kneels alongside Professor Mohammed Albahttiti (right) while the two work on installing pavers at the site of a community service project at the Chico Islamic Center.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

Concrete Industry Management (CIM) professor Mohammed Albahttiti didn’t set out to attend graduate school and teach. It was a bit of serendipity—and bad timing—that placed him at Kansas State University and cemented his path to higher education and eventually Chico State.

As an undergraduate at American University of Sharjah, he met a visiting professor from Kansas State while volunteering on a research project. The professor handed Albahttiti a business card and encouraged him to reach out if he had an interest in grad school.

“I wasn’t really interested in grad school at that time,” he said. “Like any other graduate, I just wanted to get done, work, make money, and start my life.”

But Albahttiti, a native of the United Arab Emirates, graduated as the country faced an economic downturn. With no job prospects lined up, he contacted the Kansas State faculty member, who offered to cover his tuition if he accepted a graduate research assistant position as a part of a National Science Foundation-funded grant to study natural fiber as concrete reinforcement.

After completing his master’s and doctorate degrees at Kansas State, Albahttiti taught there for a year and a half before joining Chico State in 2017.

Since arriving, he has eagerly led CIM students in service-learning projects, including building concrete Habitat for Humanity homes in Paradise and the Chico Islamic Center parking lot project. He is also an advisor for two student clubs: Women in Concrete and the American Concrete Institute (ACI) student chapter.

“I strongly believe that his involvement in community service projects has had positive impacts on our students as well as on our community,” said CIM professor Feraidon Ataie.

Albahttiti is this year’s recipient of the Early Career Community Engagement Award from Chico State’s Office of Civic Engagement. The award recognizes faculty within the first six years of their academic career who are pursuing community-engaged teaching or research.

What service projects have you been involved with since arriving at Chico State?

I joined Chico State five years ago and one of the first things the dean at the time told me about the concrete industry management and construction management programs is that he’s proud that they take on community service projects every year.

When I joined, I didn’t have a lot of time, but in my second year, one of the professors in construction management was leading a project in Bidwell Park—Caper Acres—and I talked to him about getting involved. Then in 2019, in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, we helped after the Camp Fire, building two homes for families who lost theirs in the fire.

Most recently, the Chico Islamic Center reached out to our program asking for help. They’re having a lot of refugees coming from Afghanistan—since the United States left Afghanistan—who are settling here in Chico. They didn’t have parking spaces for all the people coming to the center. They said it was becoming dangerous because people are parking and blocking traffic. They had a piece of land in the back that was empty and wanted to build a parking space. I reached out to our patrons and local partners, Basalite Concrete Products and Teichert, to donate materials and we got the students to volunteer and do this community service project.

Albahttiti Fact #1: The Federal Railroad Administration funded his research on the behavior of pre-stressed concrete railroad ties under freeze-thaw condition to help mitigate the deterioration of concrete.

Why is it important to you to involve students in service projects?

We’re getting a lot from the city and people are very friendly to us. They’re always happy to help our students and I think it’s all about giving back to the community that we’re in.

Also, it’s a benefit as a learning experience for our students. We teach all these things in the classroom—concrete, concrete placement, how to run a project, calculating quantities, delivery—but until they implement it themselves, it’s just theory. When I teach you something and just tell you about it, it’s different than when I show you or get you involved in doing it. That learning experience is very valuable, and you cannot replace it by relying on theory by itself.

Albahttiti Fact #2: While in his doctorate program, he helped make 300 concrete samples which then had to be polished—each sample took about three hours, and he developed tennis elbow.

You have mentored many students and advise two student clubs—why is mentorship important to you?

It’s just about giving back. When I was in college, I had mentors myself—my professors and upperclassmen who took me under their wings—and I was in clubs. I felt like those clubs were wonderful to learn new things, like how to do a budget, how to plan events, and how to recruit students. When I joined Chico State, one of the first things I asked was ‘Is there any club I can help with?’

Albahttiti Fact #3: As part of his “Advanced Concrete Technologies” course, students have made functional items out of concrete, including a skateboard, electric guitar, baseball bats, and a lamp, which he keeps in his office.

What is your favorite course to teach?

One of the courses I teach is called “Advanced Property Technologies.” It has a lab and I have a group project every year—incorporating concrete in a decorative manner for something functional. They must come up with an idea and present it to me so I can say yes or no. Some wonderful projects come out of it. This year, one team is going to make a clock made of concrete, the other one is going to do a miniature bridge, and the third group is going to make a scooter. I look forward to seeing those.

My next favorite course is “Precast Concrete.” That’s one of the courses that’s dear to my heart because the internship I did during my doctoral was in a precast facility. When I joined Chico State, we didn’t have any precast courses. So, I reached out to the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA), and I was like, ‘Would you be willing to help fund a project or do a student competition?’ We sat down with them and different universities and we discussed the student competition. The NPCA developed the student competition and they’ve been offering it for about five years. And I can tell you this, out of the five times they offered it, we won it four times. We just won it this year—the third year in a row that Chico State took first place.

Albahttiti Fact #4: His hobbies include hiking, fishing, and playing video games. He’s trying to get into golfing after a friend in Maryland gifted him a VR headset for Christmas under the condition that he’d play golf with him on the VR headset.

What is the most rewarding part of your career?

I think the pride that comes from seeing our students graduate and get great jobs. Their success is my success in a sense—it’s like I’ve helped in that effort and you get this sense of pride. It’s like seeing your kids succeeding or you see them go on and do wonderful things in the world.

Albahttiti has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the American University of Sharjah. He also holds master’s and doctorate degrees in civil engineering from Kansas State University. Before joining the Concrete Industry Management Program at Chico State in 2017, he was an instructor at Kansas State University.