UA Little Rock Holds First Topping Out Ceremony to Honor Construction Management, Engineering Graduates – News

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock held its first ever topping out ceremony to honor graduating students from the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering.

The event was held Dec. 5 at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Arkansas Building in North Little Rock. The event sponsors include the Arkansas Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Lexicon, and the family of Clyde Moore, who had a 50-year career as a foreman. Moore’s family says he would have been proud of the work being done at UA Little Rock and the opportunities that they provide for students.

The ceremony honored graduating students Caleb Coffman, Steven Currence, Tabari Herron, William Hopkins, Naji Kattom, Andrew Payton, and Christian Salazar. Each graduate received a certificate and a commemorative UA Little Rock hardhat as well as signed a beam that will be displayed in the Engineering, Technology, and Applied Science Building at UA Little Rock for future generations to see.

“The topping-out ceremony was very enjoyable,” said Payton, a graduating senior in construction management from Tualatin, Oregon. “It is very fitting for our construction management program due to the size, specialization, and support of the industry. Great food, great speakers, and a great evening. I won’t be attending the official graduation ceremony, so this took its place in my mind.”

The ceremony was attended by many industry professionals, including Howard Williams, one of the co-founders of the UA Little Rock construction management program, and Mike Tramel, the founding chair who served as the event’s keynote speaker.

Dean Lawrence Whitman congratulations graduating students during an inaugural Topping Out Ceremony.Photo by Benjamin Krain
Dean Lawrence Whitman congratulations graduating students during an inaugural Topping Out Ceremony. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

“This ceremony reflects a desire for you to have a safe, prosperous career with nothing but good fortune in your future,” Tramel said.

The ceremony is a way to distinguish the graduates of one of UA Little Rock’s most successful academic departments. Students in the program are highly sought after by the construction management industry and have a 100 percent employment rate upon graduation.

“It’s my desire and hope that this becomes a wonderful tradition for the graduates of this program,” said Jimmy Alessi, chairman and CEO of Alessi Keyes Construction and chairman of UA Little Rock’s departmental Industry Advisory Board.

The ceremony is a new tradition that was spearheaded by Jillian Cates, a senior construction management major and president of the Associated General Contractors of America student chapter at UA Little Rock.

“I am humbled and amazed at the outcome of this first ceremony,” Cates said. “I can’t say thank you enough to the people from the university, both faculty and staff, and industry folks who had my back the whole way through this process. Getting the first one out of the way feels good, but I’m already excited for the next one. I hope the graduates and families enjoyed it as much as I did.”

Among those in attendance was Cates’ mother, Cara Cates of Conway, who was exceedingly proud of her daughter for organizing such a unique event.

“Jillian has always been a leader,” Cara Cates said. “She’s innovative and wants to make other people feel special through the things that she does, which is very evident with the topping out ceremony.

UA Little Rock students graduating from the Construction Management program sign their names to a beam in honor of their graduation.Photo by Benjamin Krain.
UA Little Rock students graduating from the Construction Management program sign their names to a beam in honor of their graduation. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

Cates sees UA Little Rock’s topping out ceremony continuing to grow to become a milestone event for the department.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our program to grow, and it shows everyone exactly what this program is about by honoring our graduates in a way that is unique to our industry,” Cates said. “I wish all our graduates the best and thank them for being a part of making my dream come true.”



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