Thursday, February 9, 2017

ACE Mentor Program develops the next generation of industry leaders

EMJ encourages employees to take responsibility in supporting and investing in our clients, partners and colleagues. One way we do that is to mentor our employees and encourage our team members to extend our mentoring efforts beyond the office doors.
A testament to this is EMJ Chattanooga’s involvement in the ACE Mentor Program—a national program that aims to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering and construction.

Pictured is the EMJ Team of students Ryan Mattox and Carter Smith with mentors David McCallen and Russell Graham of EMJ and Blake Garrison of Garrison Investments.

Each year, ACE hosts a scholarship competition in which participating students are given a design and construction project, assigned to teams, and coached by professionals in their community to complete it. At the end of the six-month period, the teams present their designs to a panel of industry experts who judge and select the best construction solution.
This year, students were asked to design a community of 5-10 homes within Chattanooga’s urban core in an attempt to address Chattanooga’s rapidly developing affordable housing crisis.

“It’s hands-on learning at its best,” said Clint Dean, Executive Vice President of EMJ Construction. “These students tackle real-life challenges and receive virtual, on-the-job training from experienced professionals before they even start college. ACE is a valuable tool for introducing teens to the industry and inspiring them to pursue related-degrees.”

With the guidance of their EMJ mentors, students Ryan Mattox of Heritage High School and Carter Smith of Ooltewah High School developed a tiny house community on a .72-acre parcel off of Main Street in downtown Chattanooga, which would facilitate neighborhood interaction, sustainability and green technology. The pair designed, estimated costs for, and built electronic and physical models of the custom-designed homes and community center.

Students Ryan Mattox and Carter Smith creatively used Legos to illustrate how residents would utilize their tiny house community.


Ryan and Carter present their design before the judges and a room full of industry professionals.

“I was very impressed by Ryan and Carter’s creativity and effort on the tiny house community project,” said Russell Graham, the team’s leader and EMJ Preconstruction Manager. “They worked well as a team to advance their concept and presented the information in a very professional manner. “
The ACE competition came to a close with an awards banquet on February 2, 2017. EMJ Preconstruction Manager Russell Graham and Project Manager Steve Totzke led two of the five participating teams with support from mentors David McCallen, Preconstruction Manager; John Rudez, Superintendent; and Project Engineers Katie Haberberger and Craig Skidmore.
In addition to ACE’s mentoring efforts, the group also financially supports students through scholarships and grants and has awarded over $14 million in scholarships to students across the U.S.

Clint Dean (left), EMJ Executive Vice President and ACE Board Member, and Caitlin Moffitt (right), Chattanooga State Community College and ACE Board of Directors President, present the EMJ scholarship to Nathan Merritt of Grace Baptist Academy.

EMJ Executive Vice President Clint Dean serves on the ACE Mentor Program’s Board of Directors as the Fundraising Director and had the honor of presenting scholarships at the recent banquet, including a $3,000 EMJ-sponsored scholarship to Nathan Merritt of Grace Baptist Academy.

“These outstanding students are the next generation of industry leaders,” Clint said. “We believe that our investment as mentors is returned tenfold as they enter the workforce with passion and innovative ideas, making our industry a more collaborative environment for all of us.”

From all of us at EMJ, congrats to this year’s participants on a job well done!
To learn more about the ACE Mentor Program, please visit