Tramel to receive Champion of Construction Award 

J. Michael Tramel

Michael Tramel, chair of the Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been named the 2018 recipient of the Champion of Construction Award. 

Associated General Contractors of Arkansas, the American Council of Engineering Companies in Arkansas, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Plumbing Engineers announced the award as part of the 2018 Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame on April 19 at Chenal Country Club.

This award is given to an individual, public official, member of any allied profession, company or not-for-profit group who exhibits vision, passion, and interest in advancing opportunities for Arkansans through the development of infrastructure. This individual or entity is not affiliated with an architecture, construction or engineering firm but is worthy of recognition due to their commitment to and investment in improving the lives of their fellow citizens.

Tramel is happy to be honored along with Bill Hannah, a long-time volunteer and past president of the UA Little Rock Industrial Management Advisory Board, and Lance Wright, an alumnus of UA Little Rock who is one of Tramel’s former students.

Wright of Nabholz Construction Services will receive the Emerging Professional Award while Hannah, also of Nabholz Construction Services, is one of four individuals being inducted into the Construction Hall of Fame.

“I was really surprised to receive this award,” Tramel said. “I am deeply honored to be included with people of that caliber for the state of Arkansas. UA Little Rock’s program has always received a lot of contributions from the industry. We are supporting the construction industry in Arkansas.”

Tramel, who began picking up trash at construction sites at the age of 8, fondly remembers the travel, high pay, friendships, and his “construction family.”

“Those days are over, and today you must have a degree in construction management or construction engineering to be employed in the industry,” he said.

Tramel recognized the need for a college degree program in construction management in the early 1990s, but knew he would be facing an uphill battle since new workers traditionally learned the construction industry from family members and on the job, not in the classroom.

Arkansas contractors headed by George Rozzell Jr., Bob Nabholz, Gus Vratsinas, Jim May, Bob Shell, and Jack Kinnaman urged the university to begin a new program in construction management in the early 1990s. Former Chancellor Jim Young initiated an in-depth study on the issue.

The program began in fall 1997, the same year Tramel arrived at UA Little Rock. At the time, the program had about 40 students and just two other faculty members. The Department of Construction Management and Civil and Construction Engineering was formed in 2003. Today, the department has grown to about 250 students with 10 full-time and four part-time faculty members.

In 2017, the Community for Accredited Online Schools recognized UA Little Rock on its list of 50 four-year U.S. colleges and universities that offer the best construction management education programs for the 2016-17 school year.

At UA Little Rock, students can pursue  associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in construction management as well as an 18-credit-hour minor available to all students. UA Little Rock is home to the only undergraduate construction management program at a public university in Arkansas and the only graduate-level construction management program in Arkansas.

The department also recently introduced a new bachelor’s degree in professional studies, which is designed to help members of the military and those working full time in the construction industry to earn a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to completing a rigorous 125-hour curriculum, students in the civil and construction engineering program must also obtain at least 800 hours of engineering or construction-related work experience and pass two national exams.

Tramel’s commitment to teaching has certainly inspired the next generation of construction leaders in Arkansas. A former student, Michael Hansberry, now a project manager at Baldwin and Shell Construction Co., was one of the people who nominated Tramel for the award.

Mr. Tramel has made a tremendous impact to our local industry in particular,” Hansberry said. “There’s a large population in the workforce in central Arkansas and other places that have gone through and graduated from the construction management program at UA Little Rock. He’s played a key role in many by teaching and advising us.

“He’s the person that introduced me to Arkansas General Contractors through the student chapter when I attended the construction management program. I am still involved with AGC today. I’m currently a board member on the Executive Committee and past chair of the Future Leaders Division. This started with Mr. Tramel’s encouragement to join the student chapter.”

Tramel will receive the award during the 2018 Arkansas Construction Hall of Fame awards ceremony on April 19 at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock. Tickets for the event are $125 per person or $950 for a table of eight and can be purchased by contacting AGC Arkansas at or 501-375-4436.

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