Yates named Kimmel Professor of Construction Management

The only woman to head a college or university construction management department in the United States has joined the faculty of Western Carolina University as the Joe W. Kimmel Distinguished Professor of Construction Management.

J.K. Yates began her duties as Kimmel Professor and head of WCU’s department of construction management June 15.

Prior to joining the WCU faculty, Yates served as chair and professor in the department of construction management and engineering at North Dakota State University. Her other positions have included program developer and coordinator for the construction engineering and management focus area in civil engineering at Ohio University, and developer and program coordinator for the construction engineering graduate program at San Jose State University, which was the largest construction engineering graduate program in the world for a decade.

Yates also has worked for a variety of engineering and construction firms in the United States and overseas, including URS, Bechtel and Pertamina.

Born and raised in Coos Bay, Ore., Yates earned her undergraduate degree in civil engineering at the University of Washington, and as a graduate student at Texas A&M University, she became the first woman in the world to receive a doctoral degree in civil engineering with a concentration in construction engineering and management.

Yates has authored 10 books. Two of them, “Engineering and Construction Law and Contracts” and “Engineering and Construction Industry Productivity Improvement,” will be published by Prentice Hall this year. Many of her books have been published by the Construction Industry Institute, and she also has written more than 40 journal articles.

Yates recently received word that she will be honored as the Construction Industry Institute’s “Distinguished Professor for 2010” at the institute’s annual conference in Orlando, Fla., in August. In 2000, Yates visited the White House to receive the Ron Brown Presidential Award for Industry-Education Partnership from President Bill Clinton in recognition of her research collaboration with the Hewlett-Packard Company Foundation.

Three years prior to that, she was honored as the “Outstanding Educator in America in Construction” by the Associated General Contractors of America. She also received the Distinguished Professor Award as a faculty member at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, N.Y. Yates has been the recipient of more than $1 million in research support from the National Science Foundation, the Construction Industry Institute and the Hewlett Packard foundation.

Linda Seestedt-Stanford, WCU’s interim provost, said Yates will be a valuable addition to the university.

“Dr. Yates is a world-renowned engineer, author and researcher, but what struck me most when I talked with her at her interview visit was her passion for teaching,” Seestedt-Stanford said. “She shared many stories about her students and their accomplishments. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Yates in the Kimmel Professorship.”

Yates said her focus in her position at WCU will be to expand and enhance WCU’s construction management department, which was started just six years ago. 

“My experience working for a variety of firms in the engineering and construction industry, and as a faculty member at other universities, has prepared me to guide and assist the faculty members in the department of construction management as they work to create one of the top construction management departments in the United States,” she said.

“My plans include ensuring that students are being provided with the type of education that not only prepares them to work in the new environment that is emerging in the 21st century, but that also will allow them to be the graduates that local, regional, national and international construction firms prefer to hire.”

Yates said she also will focus on student recruitment; assist faculty members in obtaining research funding and in preparing articles for publication, and provide the resources required to enhance their teaching; and promote more involvement in the department by leaders from the construction industry.

WCU’s Joe W. Kimmel Distinguished Professorship in Construction Management was endowed in 2006 through gifts provided by Asheville businessman Joe W. Kimmel and matching state funds allocated through a program initiated by the General Assembly to encourage private support of public institutions of higher education.

WCU’s construction management department offers a bachelor of science degree in construction management that is accredited by the American Council for Construction Education and a fully online master’s degree in construction management, as well as minors in construction management and land development.