Providing outstanding service to the Charleston District’s customers, stakeholders and partners is one of the District’s main goals. Being good stewards of the tax payer’s money is also a top priority for the District. Josh Mueller, contracting specialist, is able to provide both of these services thanks to his recent achievement of completing his master’s degree in building science at Auburn University and aquiring a contracting officer warrant with a $10 million authority.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in business, which provided me with the resources needed to understand the business side of contracting, but I had no construction management background or knowledge,” said Mueller. “The construction management program gave me the information I needed to provide better services to our construction customers and stakeholders and better value to the taxpayers.”
Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design, and Construction curriculum is tailored specifically for construction contractors, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Directorate of Contracting started sending contract specialists in August 2012 so they could learn actual construction concepts, current trends, enhance negotiating skills and improve technical competency. Increasing construction negotiating skills was the most useful tool that Mueller learned, and is now able to research trends and processes quicker and work with the contractor to see where costs can be cut or minimized.
The Directorate of Contracting was a strong advocate for training contract specialists in construction management as a way to strengthen the Corps’ contracting capabilities. Mueller was a student in the second group of Corps employees to go through the program, which consisted of three consecutive professional certificates, plus an option to complete an additional research project in order to earn a master’s degree. About 30 Corps’ employees completed the three certificates in August 2015, and Mueller is one of five that went on to complete their master’s degree. Before he even graduated, Mueller presented at the South Atlantic Division annual governance meeting in November 2015 about the benefits of the construction management program and how it can be utilized to enhance technical competency and retain talent in the Corps.
“I led negotiations on about a dozen construction projects, and I can safely say that my team and I saved the government more than $1 million,” said Mueller. “Saving $1 million puts the $50,000 Auburn program cost in perspective.”
Obtaining these new capabilities was no small feat for Mueller. He started the program in August 2013 and graduated in December 2015. During this time, he spent 15 to 20 hours a week on schoolwork and every semester Mueller spent a week in class at Auburn University. When he started the program he was a newlywed, had a five-year-old daughter and, in August 2014, his second daughter was born adding to the challenges he overcame.
“It was difficult to balance family, work and school,” said Mueller. “But I never lost sight of what I would gain and I am really proud of what I accomplished.”
Congratulations to Mueller on completing his master’s degree, not only bettering himself, but placing the Charleston District at the fore front of customer service.