Instructor Ralph Henderson helps students succeed
“Ralph Henderson brings everything together. He’s done it all in the industry and understands what it takes to succeed,” said Andy Huffman, a graduate of RCC’s Construction Technology program.
Henderson, the department head, clearly believes his role in helping students succeed does not end at graduation. He connects grads with employers and helps them build resume writing and interviewing skills.
“We are very much into networking,” Henderson noted. He helped set up student chapters of the Association of General Contractors and the Homebuilders Association, and he organizes events, including barbecues and golf tournaments, which put students in contact with local and national companies. He also draws on his many industry connections to help students gain interview opportunities.
Henderson, who joined the RCC faculty in 1990, earned an Associate of Arts transfer degree from Rogue. He’s worked as a certified building inspector, civil engineering technician, volunteer firefighter, and owned a construction company doing residential, commercial and public works projects.
“One of the best things about teaching happens when I see a student understand a problem or when a concept becomes clear. The other is when they succeed after graduation,” Henderson said. “I love to see graduates come full circle — when they do well, hire new grads from our program and come back to teach in the classroom and pass along what they know.”
Andy Huffman’s bet that earning a college degree would be important keeps paying off. “We took a big chance and took out a second mortgage on our home so I could finish college,” Huffman said.. “Getting my degree in Construction Industry Management was absolutely a good investment of time and money.” Huffman’s degree helped him land an administrative job with the Medford Water Commission. He finds helping deliver 26 million gallons of top-quality drinking water daily to over 127,000 customers personally and professionally challenging and rewarding.
Born and raised in northeastern Oregon, Huffman was 25 when he and his wife moved to Medford. But 10 years into a thriving career as a machinist, he suffered serious injuries in a car accident, and after eight months of rehabilitation, he was unable to resume heavy lifting. Huffman looked into RCC’s programs and examined his retraining options. The homebuilding industry was going strong, and he already had credits in civil engineering and drafting, so he met with Ralph Henderson, head of RCC’s Construction Technology Department.
“From that point on, it all went on autopilot,” Huffman said. “I’d talked with just the right person. Ralph Henderson brings everything together. He’s done it all in the industry and understands what it takes to succeed. Ralph’s a wonderful instructor. He’s a great advocate for students and RCC. “In fact, the entire construction faculty are very collaborative, they’re interested in student success, and they do a really good job of networking with businesses and contractors,” he continued.
An RCC Foundation Scholarship from the Edward and Grace Coates Endowed Scholarship fund helped Huffman graduate in 2007 with an AAS in Construction Management. Earning a 3.96 grade point average, he became the first generation in his family to graduate from college. “I feel very strongly that RCC did an outstanding job of preparing me to go into this field. It was clear I was being given the right tools for whatever arose,” Huffman said. “From using tools safely to legal aspects, Construction Technology prepared me for it all.”
Huffman received two job offers at graduation and went to work for a major builder. But when private sector building declined in 2008 and layoffs escalated, Huffman again turned to his instructor and mentor for guidance into commercial construction. “Ralph taught us that our resume and cover letter are an investment of time with a big payoff,” Huffman said. “You have to stand out.”
Henderson’s advice and networking helped Huffman successfully apply for a job as construction administrator with the Water Commission. Today he oversees capital construction improvements with an annual project budget between $4 million and $9 million. “The job’s best part is that it’s a very collaborative, pleasant group,’’ Huffman said. “They are very serious, though, about their business, which is providing the best possible, most reliable water at a good cost.”
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