Connor Eckhauser, an Environmental and Water Resource Economics (EWRE) 2020 alumnus, shares his journey after graduation as an Assistant Project Manager for Mill Creek Residential Trust in Colorado. Connor’s alumnus story highlights several possibilities you can emerge as an alumni from the AREC department.
Originally from Scottsdale, AZ, Connor chose to attend UArizona in hopes of staying close to home but also having a change of pace. Connor mentioned that he initially enrolled in physics and math majors, but then realized that he wanted to study a subject that would be more applicable to daily life. Through investigation, Connor came across the AREC department and their degrees. Connor said, “[AREC] seemed to take a more methodical approach to economics than others, and focused strategic environmental resources. A couple of classes after transferring in to this program, I knew I had made the right decision.”
Connor spent his time during high school and throughout time off from UArizona as a framer and carpenter in Phoenix. He was able to gain experience building homes, but did not consider construction as much of a career choice. However, Connor explained that when he was initially hired as an Assistant Superintendent, he realized that many of the skills taught throughout his time in AREC were directly applicable to his work.
Connor wrote, “The construction industry is becoming ever more data-driven and there is opportunity for individuals who understand how to clean and analyze data efficiently and effectively. My data analysis skills were honed in throughout a couple of courses, specifically the statistical analysis and econometrics classes, in addition to my honors thesis. Beyond that, when learning to become an economist, you need to tie data to context; I believe the faculty are great at cultivating abstract reasoning, wholistic thinking and the ability to create a narrative. My biggest takeaways from participating in [AREC] are reasoning and analytical skills, which are in high demand in any industry.”
His journey to be initially hired was a trek, as in most fields of study soon after graduation. However, with patience and networking, Connor was able to score big. Connor explained, “I applied to a hundred jobs; it was demoralizing. Through conversing with various friends and professionals, I met someone who saw my resume and realized I had experience in construction. He happened to be the Vice President of a small general contractor, and I was hired a week after as an Assistant Superintendent.”
Throughout Connor’s two years as an Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent, he dealt with highs and lows as any position may bring on. A few favorite moments that Connor was able to share include: becoming licensed as a tower crane operator after completing the complex written and practical exams for certification, completing his first concrete transfer deck while he was Superintendent, and turning over his first project which was approved by the governing jurisdiction and allowed people to move into the building. Connor was also able to share some of his difficult moments that helped him grow professionally and personally: maintaining professionalism in unbalanced work environments to continue collaborating and fostering teamwork for the sake of moving the project forward. He also had to make the decision to explore new opportunities but had to leave behind his first company and great relationships with coworkers when he wanted to grow professionally.
Connor explained, “After gaining experience for two years as an Assistant Superintendent and Lead Project Superintendent, I decided I needed a new opportunity to grow professionally. Mill Creek Residential, the third largest multi-family developer in the nation, hired me in June 2022. I have deeply enjoyed working around very intelligent and distinctive individuals, and been given fantastic opportunities to improve myself professionally and personally.”
Now as Assistant Project Manager for Mill Creek Residential Trust, Connor is facing new highs and lows that come with change and growth. He explained, “My position evolves over the course of a project to fit the needs of different construction phases. I usually have exposure to different tasks so one task does not become monotonous. I am continually challenged to solve complex problems. It is pretty incredible to watch a large group of people with varying skillsets and backgrounds come together to physically change the environment around them. The comradery is unique and fulfilling.”
As Connor continues to grow in the construction industry and use the skills he developed during his participation in AREC, he was able to provide this advice: “Find something that matches your skills and interests. The AREC department faculty are great at teaching widely applicable and desirable skills. Leverage your relationships and get to know people personally; you never know what may arise, let alone the great relationships you develop along the way. Do not be afraid to challenge yourself. Even if the opportunity is not what you envisioned, you could find it interesting and fulfilling in a way you could not have imagined.”