Bradley experience comes full circle

July 9, 2010

Cody Gerdes is proof that a Bradley education can take you far, even if it keeps you close—very close.  With a youthful smile, clean white polo shirt, and gelled hair beneath his hard hat, the construction project manager presents a sharp contrast to the crew of workers around him at the site of the new Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.  In fact, the 2006 Bradley graduate says the combination of his young age and lofty title can present challenges in a job environment where most of his subordinates are easily old enough to be his father.   Spend a few minutes walking with Gerdes through the construction zone, though, and you won’t detect any tension.  He jokes with the mason workers, chats comfortably, but professionally, with a passing safety specialist, and receives waves and other greetings from almost all of the nearly 25 men on site. 

Gerdes, who has worked for River City Construction since 2005, has no illusions about the perception older workers in the industry have about newcomers like himself, and says winning their respect is one of his primary goals. 

“I just try to get to know them, and one thing I always try to do is ask them questions and get their input on things.  If you get everybody’s input, they get the buy-in mentality,” Gerdes said.  After clearing that hurdle, it’s down to business, applying skills he acquired right here at Bradley.

Every weekday since the alumni center’s groundbreaking late last year, Gerdes has been reporting to campus earlier than he ever did as a student.  He admits that putting his Bradley education to work for his alma mater feels a bit surreal.  After all, it wasn’t so long ago he was sitting in a construction methods class a stone’s throw from the River City trailer, learning why structures like the Alumni Center require particular materials in their design.  Now it seems his Bradley experience is coming full circle, which incites in Gerdes a feeling beyond the surreal.

“I have a lot of personal pride in it,” he said.

Gerdes looks forward to spending many more months working on his old stomping grounds.  His team will begin renovations on Westlake Hall later this year.