Emmons Presents Kirlin Distinguished Lecture, "The Continuum of Education"
On Friday, Nov. 13, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomed Peter Emmons (B.S. ’73), Founder and CEO of Structural Group, as the fall 2015 Kirlin Distinguished Series lecturer.
More than 65 students, faculty, alumni, and industry friends gathered to take part in Emmons’ presentation, “The Continuum of Education: How Career-Long Learning Can Fill the Gap between College Education and Career Success.”
Embracing the ideal that education does not end with a university degree, Emmons’ passion for learning has helped him pave the way to build a culture of education at Structural. Since its founding 40 years ago, the company has built and implemented formal educational programs that have the look and feel of a university curriculum.
"One of the things we realized was that we wanted to bring the university environment to the company," he said. "We created what we call Structural University, which is set up to offer courses. We modeled it after the Arts & Learning Center here at the University of Maryland. You can imagine all the specialty things we do as a company - you can't go out elsewhere and find this training, so we decided to offer it ourselves."
Emmons stated that, since childhood, he has always known that he wanted to one day start a business. Once an aspiring aerospace engineer, Emmons' father served as his mentor for years, encouraging him to instead pursue civil engineering which, at the time, represented a more promising field.
“Find a world need that fits you and bring value to the world and yourself,” Emmons advised. “If you connect with something important, it really drives your passion and purpose. Throughout your whole life, you’re testing your path.”
At just 24 years old - and within a year of graduating from UMD's civil engineering program - Emmons founded Structural Preservation Systems, Inc., now known as Structural Group.
Since then, Emmons has learned through experience the importance of building an environment that supports career-long education.
"If you want to be on a path to your purpose, you have to continue to develop and learn," Emmons said. "The companies that do the best job making their environment conducive to helping others find their purpose and making others happy are the ones that are going to retain employees. We're trying to be there."
Emmons went on to stress the importance of finding a work culture that fits with one's own aspirations in order to achieve happiness in the field.
Structural Group has certainly succeeded in this department. According to Emmons, the company holds a 50 percent retention rate over 20 years, a feat in this day and age.
"I know I've been in companies earlier in my career where the culture didn't feel right to me," Emmons said. "Everybody has a different set of expectations, needs, and desires. Culture is important. Your job is to match up world needs, and your own capabilities and competencies with the right cultural fit. Those are a lot of things, and they create a lot of different pathways and outcomes in terms of your happiness."
One way in which Structural has developed its culture is by maintaining a focus on helping the planet last longer by providing solutions that make new and existing structures stronger and last longer, Emmons said.
Prior to the Kirlin lecture, Emmons provided a guest lecture to CEE Professor Amde M. Amde's ENCE454, "Design of Concrete Structures," during which he offered case studies of some of Structural's many strengthening projects.
In addition to strengthening structures in the wake of construction errors, Emmons discussed cases in which Structural was called in to remedy inadequate post-tensioned reinforcement, concrete distress, and shear failures in concrete beams.
To address repair and reinforcement options, Emmons provided students with a crash course in areas such as concrete compression and tension, steel plate bonding, and strengthening with fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP).
Published November 16, 2015