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Intern gets inside look at Lafferre Hall renovation

John Morrison in front of the construction area.

John Morrison stands in front of the work zone of the Lafferre Hall renovation project. Behind him are the demolished remains of the 1944 addition and the shell of the 1935 addition. Morrison is the only student intern working on the project over the summer.

The areas behind the chain link fences surrounding Lafferre Hall’s north side are hard-hat required construction zones, admission to which requires permission and paperwork from building contractor Tarlton Corporation for entry. But one MU engineering student has had daily access to the site. With his name branded across his hard hat, civil engineering junior John Morrison’s summer internship has yielded firsthand experience and also a lot of satisfaction from taking part in a major change to Mizzou’s campus and his home college.

“I’m definitely learning a lot,” he said. “I finished Calc II last semester, so now I will be able to take more engineering classes that I can apply the knowledge that I have learned from my internship.” He added the internship has allowed him to learn more about reading and understanding architectural blueprints and schematics.

As an intern, some of Morrison’s duties include taking daily photos of the renovation’s progress. He said he tries to take an exterior photo of the work site from the steps of Engineering Building North. He also helps with paperwork and phone calls, as well as other office duties.

“Any products [materials or equipment, for example] brought in must be approved by the architect, so we send what we call ‘submittals’ to get approval,” Morrison said.

The internship circuitously occurred thorough his involvement with the Mizzou Eco-racing team, where he served as team safety manager. Morrison traveled with the team and Mizzou’s Formula SAE team to St. Petersburg, Russia, last spring and met Marty Walker, then-adviser to the Formula SAE team.

Morrison, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years, began talking with Walker, a retired USMC lieutenant colonel, during an airport layover. Morrison had been looking for a summer internship in mid-Missouri, to no avail. Meanwhile, Walker was looking for a student veteran to intern with Tarlton. The timing was perfect.

“I know internships are very important,” Morrison said. “There are more internship opportunities available in Kansas City. I was actually in the middle of transferring to UMKC [the University of Missouri-Kansas City] when I met Marty, who was looking for a civil engineering student who also was a veteran. This worked out just great.”

Though his family moved frequently when he was growing up, Morrison thinks of Kansas City as his hometown. He said considers himself an independent worker and learned many basic home maintenance skills from his father. In high school, he took vocational courses where he learned welding, building trades and cabinetry.

Before serving in the military, Morrison worked as a union carpenter in the Kansas City area. His favorite project was the Sprint Center.

“It’s very cool being able to point that building out to your friends and tell them, ‘I worked on that,’” he said.

After leaving the military, Morrison said he knew going back into construction would mean labor-intensive work for many years and decided then that he wanted to pursue a career in management.

“I didn’t know how long my body would let me do work that hard,” he said.

He weighed his options: Missouri University of Science & Technology was too far from home and the UMKC didn’t offer the educational program he wanted. Mizzou’s engineering program was the perfect spot in the middle, Morrison said. He chose civil engineering because of his familiarity with building and construction, as well as the future of the industry.

“I liked both civil and mechanical engineering, so I looked at the job outlook for both of them,” Morrison said. “It seems like more people are going into mechanical engineering right now, so the job outlook is smaller. Civil engineering had the much better job outlook.”

His internship began two weeks after the Spring 2015 semester ended, and it will end the week before the Fall 2015 semester begins. Morrison said he plans to graduate in Spring 2018.