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Jana Chams: Bridging Construction and Design

Jana Chams (’18SPS, Construction Administration), who received this year’s Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) NY/NJ Metro Chapter Award with fellow student Talib Mahmood Sheikh (’18SPS, Construction Administration), is a project manager and owner representative for the Virgin Hotel in New York City. Her long-term aspiration is to reach a managerial role and open a design-build company, goals her study has brought her closer to achieving.

What led you to your interest in architecture?

After attaining my B.A. in Architecture at the American University of Beirut, I was able to turn the creations I used to make as a little girl into reality at one of the top sustainable architecture-consulting firms in the world. My time at SmithGroupJJR and my exposure to many projects allowed me to realize the integral part surrounding the architecture process. Through my site visits, I watched as my designs came to life.

What initially attracted you to the M.S. in Construction Administration program?

I realize an architect spends months in all phases of design, developing, and documenting an instruction manual on how a structure is to be constructed. Once the drawings are submitted and the project is executed, we are bombarded by the problems that were concealed by the blueprints, causing underlying problems in the relationship between an architect and their client. This led me to a passion for construction and I decided to earn a graduate degree in Construction Administration at Columbia University to build my foundation for this integral part of designing a building and bridging that with construction.

What type of skills have you been able to build and improve on through the program?

The Construction Administration program has allowed me to extend my knowledge both in construction and complementing fields like real estate and development, which at the end of the day all ties in as part of the same industry architecture, contracting, and development. I’ve mastered the technical aspects of construction and expanded my knowledge of legal issues, business strategy, and negotiation skills.