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Lara Bou Khalil: Launching a Construction Management Career in NYC

By Nick Schiff

At Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies, Lara Bou Khalil (’18SPS, Construction Administration):

• Became an expert in every aspect of construction project management, including law, finance, and sustainability

• Learned leading-edge project management technology

• Began her U.S. job search by building a network of industry leaders in New York City

Can you tell me about your life and career before entering the program?

Before I started the program, I earned my master’s degree in architecture in Lebanon. While I was a student, I did execution drawings—both electrical and mechanical—for an architecture firm. But I wanted to go further.

Tell me about that.

I realized that top architects merge their theoretic design knowledge with practical, hands-on project management techniques. In fact, that side was more important to me.

I started looking for programs that unite architecture and construction. The master’s of science in Construction Administration at Columbia stood out because it offered so many industry connections. I was also liked that green building, finance, accounting, and legal aspects are taught in the program.

Tell me about the experience of studying in the program.

Courses focus on the future of the industry. We focused heavily on leading-edge tech such as BIM (Building Information Modeling). Also, most students are professionals in the field, and they bring in that real-world experience.

What are your professors and fellow students like?

My first day I was worried that Columbia students would be so competitive that I wouldn’t be able to find friends or mentors. Coming from abroad, that scared me.

However, I met friends immediately. We grew so close, they’re now like family to me. Most of them are professionals in the industry in New York City, and have gone out of their way to help me transition to a career in the United States by introducing me to contacts and pointing me toward hiring opportunities. The same goes for my professors. They host events with prestigious colleagues, and I’ve had a chance to meet many of them.

What's next for you after graduation?

I’m in the interviewing stage of my job search. Now I feel confident in my ability to excel in a management position in either a construction or architecture company.