By Nick Werner, ’03
Designing buildings seemed like the right career choice when Adam Owens, ’09, was a young man.
As an underclassman at Ball State, he applied for admission into the school’s architecture program four semesters in a row.
“It’s competitive,” he said. “I just didn’t have a portfolio. To be honest, I didn’t make a big impression.”
By his fourth rejection, a crestfallen Adam was searching for answers. Thankfully, his then-girlfriend Kim—now his wife—staged an intervention. She suggested Adam talk to her aunt, Sandy Cameron, who worked at the University.
Sandy was not a faculty member or an adviser. She worked in the University’s marketing and communication’s office. But she knew about a relatively new degree program that seemed to line up with Adam’s interests and experience — construction management.
Adam wasn’t aware the program existed. But with Sandy’s encouragement, he met with advisers and faculty members.
“When I walked into the construction management department, not to sound cheesy, it was love at first sight,” Owens said.
A CEO at age 33
In the construction management major, students learn to lead multi-million dollar building projects from concept to completion, on time and within budget.
Ball State launched the major in 2005. The University is one of only four in Indiana to offer an accredited construction management major, according to Jim Jones, chairperson of the Department of Construction Management and Interior Design.
Currently, about 250 undergraduates are majoring in construction management. Additionally, about 50 students are minoring in construction management while majoring in degrees such as architecture or business.
“We do learn about materials, like concrete and steel,” Jones said. “But students must also become familiar with economics and accounting and all the business side of things.”
Since 2014, construction management majors graduating from Ball State have experienced a 100 percent placement rate. Those alumni have gone on to oversee the construction of homes, apartment complexes, hospitals, airports, highways and more, Jones said.
Owens is an example of the program’s success.
In November 2020, at just 33 years old, the board of directors for the Zionsville-based RLTurner Corporation selected him as the company’s CEO.
“It’s no surprise that Adam was successful,” Jones said. “You could tell he would be able to take the pressure of the industry while still making thoughtful decisions.”
With about 70 employees, RLTurner is a midsized general contractor, specializing in commercial construction, including school projects, athletics facilities, municipal buildings, public parks, pools and splash pads, and more.
Owens began his career with the company before he even graduated. It started with an internship the summer before his last semester at Ball State. RLTurner extended Owens’ internship through that final semester and assigned him more responsibility too. While in school, he served as assistant project manager for construction of the mechanical engineering building at Purdue University.
Juggling classwork and a career wasn’t easy. On Fridays, when he didn’t have class, he would leave Muncie at 3 a.m. for West Lafayette or Zionsville and often not return home until 10 p.m.
Nonetheless, he loved the work and hired on full-time upon graduation.
“I hired in and I never looked back,” Owens said.
A Perfect Fit
Owens grew up in New Palestine, Indiana, raised by his grandparents. He said he inherited his up-at-3-a.m. work ethic from his late grandfather, Paul Owens, who worked as a civil engineer for 37 years for what was then called the Indiana Department of Highways (now, the Indiana Department of Transportation).
Paul also involved Adam in projects around the house, like pouring concrete sidewalks. In doing so, he instilled a deep appreciation for quality and craftsmanship.
When Adam found construction management, he said the opportunity to oversee construction—as opposed to design—felt natural for him.
“I learned about site prep and it was exactly the kind of stuff I had done with my grandpa growing up,” he said.
Owens also serves on the advisory board for the construction management program at Ball State, helping the department develop curriculums that ensure its degree still prepares students with the skills that employers need.
More than a decade after learning about construction management, Owens’ love for the career field has not diminished.
“Whenever I drive by one of our buildings, I’m sure my wife gets tired of hearing me say, ‘Hey, we built that.’”