Skip to main content

From Nomad to R&D: Construction Management Graduate Finds Niche in Research and Development

Magen Schlesier, a 2022 graduate of UA Little Rock, talks about the journey to renovating the Bernhard Student Club Headquarters at UA Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain.
Magen Schlesier, a 2022 graduate of UA Little Rock, talks about the journey to renovating the Bernhard Student Club Headquarters at UA Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain.

After graduating from Parkview High School, Magen Schlesier, a December 2022 graduate of UA Little Rock, never had any plans to attend college.

“I read a book by James Michener called ‘The Drifters,’” she said. “It made me want to travel and experience the world.”

That is exactly how Schlesier spent the next decade of her life. She attended bartending school in Las Vegas and worked across the country in states like New Jersey, Louisiana, and Florida. By 28, Schlesier had enough of her nomadic lifestyle and was reconsidering college.

“Everything in my life had been living in my car or a hotel room or bouncing all over the place,” she said. “It was a very nomadic, exciting lifestyle, but I had no roots.”

She moved back to Arkansas and enrolled as an engineering major at UA Little Rock in 2015. She was actively involved – working two jobs while taking a full load of classes and serving as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers and a member of the Society of Women Engineers.

By 2017, Schlesier had decided to stop studying engineering, but her time in this field led her to find her love of construction management. Already an intern at W&W|AFCO Steel, Schlesier landed a full-time position as an estimator.

“I was watching and learning and observing,” she said. “I got hired as an estimator, and then I got really good at it, and I didn’t want to do anything else. Construction is for me.”

Schlesier would spend the next four years working as a steel bridge fabrication estimator before joining C & F Steel Erectors, Inc. as a structural steel erection preconstruction manager and estimator. In 2018, Schlesier decided to transfer to the construction management program at UA Little Rock.

Magen Schlesier
Magen Schlesier

“The biggest thing I took away from my construction management degree is the power of networking,” she said. “My life and career transformed with a little bit of effort. These people and these organizations will accept you with open arms and give you a job to do. The doors that were opening for me left and right were unbelievable.”

A big proponent of the power of professional development, Schlesier is serving as the director of NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) Greater Little Rock and chair of the Student Chapter Committee with AGC (Associated General Contractors) Association of Arkansas.

It was during an AGC event, a baggo tournament, that she met Courtney Little, president and general counsel of ACE Glass Construction Corporation, and the two discussed a new research and development position. Last year, Schlesier hit the ground running as ACE Glass’s new director of research and development.

“This is a super cool new area for Arkansas,” she said. “There are not a lot of research and development positions in construction in the south. Our president, Courtney Little, has all of these ideas to bring items to Arkansas to help the construction industry and to improve upon patents that currently exist but could be streamlined and made better. My job is to take all of these ideas, find the right people, and bring this vision to fruition. I am the puzzle solver. I have my whole office decorated like Alice in Wonderland because I am down the rabbit hole. Everything I work on is imaginary until we bring it to life.”

Some of the projects she’s working on is an electrically conductive glass that repels dust, a lightweight foamed glass aggregate for use in highway construction, and a wood curtain wall system for use in residential and commercial buildings that can be created from locally sourced Arkansas pine trees.

Schlesier said that she is hoping her work with these professional development organizations will encourage more women to go major in construction management.

“It’s a great time to work in construction management!” she said. “There are so many great people and organizations. I am excited about the future of the industry and what we are gearing up to accomplish. The people in this industry are some of the most passionate, compassionate, driven people I’ve met in my lifetime, and you often become like the people you associate yourself with!”

Schlesier is dedicated to helping build the next generation of women in the construction industry. She has volunteered at women in STEM events at UA Little Rock and gives talks to high school classes.

While she is currently the only research and development associate in her area at ACE Glass, Schlesier has plans of building a department of talented and innovative R&D employees.

“Right now, it’s just me, but I’d like to hire engineers and analysts to fill a new research and development department,” she said. “I would like to make that a lifelong career and be able to manage my team to success. My most immediate goal is to make R&D a profitable venture within two years. Working at ACE Glass gives me the opportunity to continue to be involved with all the organizations. For me, it allows me to continue my networking and donating my time and my skills to the community. I really love to be able to do that. It’s really rewarding.”