Two Construction Administration Students Receive Inaugural Elizabeth and Leon Daniels Scholarships

On Friday, October 31, 2014 at a private luncheon at Café Un Deux Trois in Manhattan, a select group of Columbia University School of Professional Studies administrators gathered to toast the recipients of the Elizabeth and Leon Daniels Scholarship, Muhammad Shoukat and Wendy Hewlett, as well as the funder of the scholarship, Jaime Daniels. The privately funded scholarship recognizes outstanding students in the M.S. in Construction Administration program at Columbia University and, this year, awarded two recipients with $5,000 each.

Dennis Green, the director of the Master of Science in Construction Administration program, said that the scholarship was about one year in the making. Daniels, who teaches the course Elemental Topics in Construction Administration as well as the Construction Administration Master’s Project, wanted to create a program-specific award in honor of his parents, Elizabeth and Leon Daniels.

“We decided to split it into two awards of $5,000 each, one for an incoming student and one for a continuing student,” Green said. The recipients were chosen based both on merit and need.

Green explained the rationale behind choosing Shoukat and Hewlett as the scholarship recipients: “In Wendy’s case, community service was a factor in our decision; she’s working in the affordable housing area. In Muhammad’s decision, [it was] the idea that he wants to develop a family business into a multinational business.”

“I come from a family of construction managers,” said Shoukat. However, for his family, the idea of supplementing one’s real-world skills with formal education was a new one: “My family comes from this mindset of construction where...you grab a hammer and you grab a nail, and you start working,” he said. Green added that Shoukat is academically one of the top students in his class. Shoukat, who credits the Construction Administration program with offering a comprehensive view of the financial, operational, and managerial sides of construction, plans to apply his knowledge to a management role in order to grow his family's business.

“A lot of my experience is hands-on tenant relations,” said Hewlett. Of pursuing her master’s in Construction Administration, she said, “I want to be in a position where I can actually make a difference.” Hewlett has been working in the area of housing development and community relations since 2002, having started as support staff and advanced to a project manager role in 2006 and a co-owner of a real estate development company in 2009. When asked how she plans to apply her construction administration knowledge, she replied, “I hope to work within a housing agency, whether it be HPD [Housing Preservation and Development], NYCHA [The New York City Housing Authority], DHCR [The Department of Homes and Community Renewal].” Hewlett said, “I would deal with the policies and make sure that the affordable housing actually sticks.” Green said of awarding Hewlett a scholarship, “We are happy to support her as she continues to work on housing projects that build a sense of community in Manhattan.“

Against the backdrop of a light-filled French bistro, the Columbia celebrants toasted Shoukat, Hewlett, and Daniels. The Elizabeth and Leon Daniels Scholarship will also be available next year; Prof. Daniels plans to donate $10,000 annually to recognize and award student excellence in the field of Construction Management.

Of the honorees’ career goals, Green remarked, “These are the kinds of dreams that we like to encourage. If you believe you can do it, you can do it.”