KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Hosam Olimat bounds into a room with a spring in his step. His enthusiasm is the first thing that greats you when you meet him. This second-year civil engineering graduate student is happy to be exploring the Parkview Ave Campus that he’s had limited access to since joining the University mid-pandemic.
Yet through his work with Western Michigan University Facilities Management, Olimat has spent the last several months exploring and learning the inner workings of how a University builds a campus. He has moved from the theoretical to the practical, seeing projects from an idea to completion.
“Civil engineering is concerned with building aspects,” says Olimat. “Here I start to see everything—how they do the mechanical, how they do the electrical, how they do the flooring, the carpeting. It was new and exciting for me.”
Olimat came to Facilities Management on the recommendation of his advisor, Dr. Osama Abudayyeh, chair of the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering. As COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, Facilities Management found itself needing assistance. Projects deferred during the 2020-21 academic year needed to be scheduled, and the department was looking to centralize its scheduling in a way that allowed for project managers to communicate and adapt to an ever-shifting timeline.
The department reached out to Abudayyeh to identify a student to help determine the best tool to organize and implement a new scheduling routine. Abudayyeh recommended one of his best students, Olimat.
With a limited background in the programs available, Olimat applied himself to researching and testing multiple programs to figure out which was the best in terms of efficiency and cost. With Olimat’s recommendation, the department chose Microsoft Projects.
“Olimat had not previously used Microsoft Projects; he didn’t know about it or have a background in it. But that didn’t cause him to not be the exact student we needed, because he went out and learned it … and he learned how to use it well enough and fast enough to teach the rest of us,” says Marcy Lynn, manager of maintenance services and Olimat’s supervisor.
Olimat not only determined the best scheduling software but helped with the rollout by presenting it and getting buy-in from the staff. The centralization of scheduling eased the stress and allowed for greater collaboration across the department. Olimat and Lynn set up the platform and created a malleable master schedule so staff could know where resources were being used, which projects needed more work hours and how to adjust the work in case of delays.
After a short time on the job, Lynn began to take him around to the job sites to see how the construction projects were put together. That experience is what Olimat has valued most. He says his supervisors always brought him in on the project, encouraged him to ask questions and showed him the different processes, giving him invaluable experience.
“They don’t know how much the experience is worth for me. I can ask any question. They will start illustrating everything without me asking. I’m really lucky that I have all these people who are trying to help me. Not sparing any information and saying everything and being very nice made me really excited to continue and move on and to do my best," he says.
Facilities Management has always had a handful of students helping with its programs, and Lynn focuses on creating the experience of the job site for students by placing an emphasis on engaging with the different positions and letting students learn through practice. Olimat says what the department and particularly Lynn have done has helped him become more conscious of the many dimensions of their work.
Lynn "likes to share projects together. She says we’re going to do that and she does most of the work, but she just wants to teach me,” Olimat says.
Olimat came to Western Michigan University from the Hashemite University in Zarqa, Jordan. While there, he received a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering with a 3.9 GPA, finishing at the top of his class. There he met Abudayyeh who encouraged him to apply to Western.
Olimat’s background has been in analyzing the safety of the project site; he already has two published papers on safety in the workplace. His previous work was mainly theoretical, working on the analysis of efficiency scores through the use of data and envelopment analysis. When encouraging him to apply for the facilities management position, Abudayyeh told him that “he’s done the theoretical, now do some work.”
Olimat speaks highly of the dynamic nature of U.S. job sites. They engage with so many different materials, coordinate the different properties and build complex infrastructure, he says. Olimat hopes to take the knowledge he learns at WMU back to his home country of Jordan to help them develop a more impressive nation.
Lynn and Olimat have enjoyed the return to fall and the potential it brings. A year at Western and he is ready to meet his professors in person, mingle with the other students, explore the facilities and “get more As.”
For Lynn, the need for Olimat’s work grows as Western engages in major projects. Moving the Bernhard Center to the new student center, the relocation of Bronco Express to Faunce Student Services and other projects entering the design stage represent a bright new future for the University, and Olimat will be present, helping guide the projects to completion.
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