Cora N. Howell (Student)

Cora N. Howell sittiing on stairs

In 2014, Cora Howell was part of the early-entry program at Mississippi State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Fate intervened, however, when she discovered a newer academic program offered by the university.

After researching the College of Architecture, Art and Design’s building construction science major, the former Kitty Lake, Alaska, resident decided to take a different career-training path.

Howell had actual construction experience since her family had built two cabins in the seemingly limitless wilderness of America’s largest state. Because the nearest city was located an hour away—by air—Howell said she and her six siblings had to be homeschooled. “My mom made sure we had a world-class education,” she proudly added.

In 2010, homeschooling continued as the family moved to the Lower 48 and the Northeast Arkansas town of Greenway. When not studying or doing homework, Howell said she was able to find work with a local landscaping and dirt contractor. In time, she became a foreman, directing a field crew.

Howell’s hands-on experience continued when she received an internship last year with Philadelphia-based Yates Construction and began working on job sites in Jackson and other locations.

Though its headquarters remain in Neshoba County, the company founded in the mid-1960s has grown dramatically, now staffing four other offices in Mississippi, as well as operations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and even Central Mexico.

During the summer of 2015, Howell was transferred by Yates to Starkville to work fulltime on new MSU facilities now carrying the names of Dogwood and Deavenport residence halls, as well as the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Center for America’s Veterans at Nusz Hall.

“I moved up from intern scheduling coordinator to assistant superintendent,” said Howell. In that latter role, she was responsible for Dogwood’s construction field operations that included subcontractor coordination, scheduling, workplace maintenance and general problem-solving.

As an MSU junior now of Sturgis, the Shackouls Honors College member is focusing fulltime on her academic studies in CAAD’s third-year building construction science studio.

“Studio is without a doubt the most effective and efficient way to teach construction,” Howell said. “It creates a safe environment for students to both succeed and fail while applying the concepts of construction.”

After graduation next year, Howell said she hopes to find employment as a field superintendent with a general contracting firm. The ideal position would offer world-travel opportunities before focusing on a specific construction area, she added.

Given her work experiences stretching from the frozen North to steamy South and the academic preparation received on campus, it probably is a safe bet Howell’s wishes may come true.