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Chico State

Pavement Partnership

Photos by Samuel Palandech

It took 12 days of work, 10 members of the campus community, and more than 300 hours of labor. Students young and old are cutting the ribbon this week to celebrate the completion of a new courtyard at Sierra View Elementary School.

“When we arrived on site, it was just bare dirt and stumps,” said Chico State sophomore Hayden Kaae. “It was great to carry the project from start to finish, which can be rare in concrete—to be part of every step.”

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The decades-old courtyard at Sierra View before the project.

For the last several weeks, he and a team of volunteers have been removing sidewalks and concrete, framing forms, and placing and stamping concrete. On the final day, the students fit rubber stamps together like pieces of a puzzle and pounded them firmly into the concrete to leave an impression.

“It’s a great way to get experience you are not going to get in the classroom,” said Kaae, who is majoring in concrete industry management (CIM), a program made possible by our generous industry partners.

Chico Unified School District (CUSD) provided all the materials, and Chico State provided the expertise and labor, with support from CIM students, the Women in Concrete club, Program Coordinator Feraidon Ataie, and University Mason Ricardo Carrillo.

Ataie estimates that with a combined 30 years of experience—worth $100 an hour—the value of the team’s contribution to the project was $30,000.

“This is our signature project,” he said. “And it’s the largest project we’ve ever done.”

CIM students begin to frame the courtyard before placing the concrete.

With buckling pavers and cracked sidewalks, the decades-old courtyard was in a sorry state earlier this year, said CUSD Facilities Manager Lalanya Rothenberger. The district wanted a safer place for the children to learn and eat lunch, and the University proved itself as a valuable partner.

“We got to give back by giving a great opportunity to local college students, and we also got to get back because they helped provide a great concrete courtyard for our students,” she said.

Being such a small, intimate program, CIM has the chance to focus more on community service than perhaps some other majors, Kaae said. And students team build in the process.

A CIM student smooths the freshly placed concrete.

“It’s a close-knit community,” added junior Michael Wilmerding. “Everyone knows everyone, and that helps us in completing the project.”

Ataie, whose children attend Sierra View, heard about the desire for an improved play area and realized his students may be an asset.

Not only does the project give the students hands-on experience and a resume boost, but they gain an invaluable opportunity to witness firsthand what it is like to execute a project of this kind, which helps them prepare to work as project managers in the future.

“It’s a rewarding learning experience for these students and all of us,” Ataie said. “We love to give back to our community, and it’s a way to promote our program.”

Chico State’s CIM program is one of only four in the United States—combining the academic disciplines of concrete technology with business administration. Developed through an industry-academia partnership, the program is supported by more than 50 national and local companies.

In April, the program celebrated the completion of a revitalized concrete laboratory, made possible through the philanthropy of CIM Patrons member Dennis Murphy (BS, Civil Engineering, ’94). In addition to CIM majors, students from civil engineering and sustainable manufacturing are benefiting from new equipment and expanded work spaces that allow multiple groups to use the lab at one time.


CIM students use rubber pads and mallets to stamp stone impressions into the pavement.

Wilmerding’s desire to major in concrete came with the recognition that it’s the most used labor material in the world, with limitless possibilities and lasting value, he said. He takes pride in realizing the potential impact of the new courtyard.

“It will be here forever,” he said.

The students and CIM program are expected to be recognized at the May 18 Chico Unified School Board meeting for their service, and a ribbon cutting will be held at 4:30 p.m. May 19 at Sierra View Elementary to celebrate the reopening of the courtyard.