A Profile of Melanie Ford
Passionate Construction Leader and Advocate

Melanie J. Ford

Melanie J. Ford
Senior Director of Construction
University of Georgia

Melanie Ford planned to pursue architecture when she entered college but after two years in the architecture program found that she enjoyed her Building Science classes more than her design classes. Her interest in construction management eventually led to her working in the private sector for two decades for construction companies.

Her teachers weren’t always so supportive of her fascination with construction. One told her, “I can't see you telling some 50-year-old, hard hat wearing, tobacco chewing man where the hell he can put his steel. But you could probably work in estimating.”

Melanie found great mentors at the first construction firm she worked for who taught her about the value of being a good writer and communicator.

“I had a situation early in my career where I wrote this diatribe to a subcontractor explaining that they hadn’t done what they were supposed to do, adding all these emotional things about how I felt about what they had done, and I worked really hard on it,” said Melanie. “I gave it to my supervisor to review and he replied, ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ That has served me well over the years in terms of just being very factual about things and not putting all my emotions into it, because it's really about making business decisions.”

Now the Senior Director of Construction at the University of Georgia, Melanie oversees the construction of the major capital construction and renovation projects, which involves providing guidance for the contractors that work on UGA’s campus and assisting with coordinating their logistics. She also provides support for the UGA project managers, assisting the architects with construction administration problem solving, assists with oversight of quality control, compliance with the UGA Design and Construction standards, and support for the inspectors.

“I'm responsible for looking out for the big picture and making sure that the schedules are met, and that the quality of the work meets UGA’s expectations,” said Melanie. Most days involve multiple meetings and project coordination, and there are many days during the week where she ends up being double booked and having to make a judgement call to determine which meeting takes priority.

“I go to as many owner architect contractor meetings as I can based on whatever my schedule is and what competing priorities we have,” said Melanie. “I like to make sure that I'm looking at the job sites regularly, because as much as you sit in on meetings and know the issues, you don't really understand the real impact until you walk out on site.”

Melanie’s approach to teamwork, construction and renovation includes considering the facilities team.

“Throughout the course of construction, we have facilities management walk the jobsite with us and have them point out if there’s anything that they see that we may have overlooked as far as maintenance issues. Some of it is just familiarizing them with the building so they know what's in it and where things are before we cover up the walls and the ceilings,” said Melanie.

Those interactions give the facilities team the opportunity to ask about the type of HVAC systems which are being installed in a particular building. The facilities management team, their engineering group and their operation and maintenance group also can look at the project design at each milestone drawing submission, too, because some people are more visual than others.

Melanie runs and hikes for fun and relaxation. She has a big golden retriever, an evil orange kitty, and her kids are grown with one in college, one living in Chicago and another in Atlanta. She has a master’s in historic preservation and is currently working on finishing up a master’s in landscape architecture.

Because Melanie is a big believer in networking, community service, and career counseling she serves as the Georgia Chapter President for the Construction Owners Association of America, an organization that includes architects, owners, and contractors.

She also co-founded Athens Area Women in Construction, which is officially registered as a nonprofit in the State of Georgia. The Athens group has been around for four years, and their monthly meetings vary between a mix of workshops where participants learn about a skill or a trade, they do jobsite tours, and they have professional speakers who share inspiring stories. The Athens group also hosts a summer camp for 11th and 12th grade girls to give them hands-on experience and to teach them about the various career opportunities in the construction, architecture, and engineering fields.

“This has been a good career for me, partly because I have a hard time sitting still, and I enjoy my time out on the jobsites,” said Melanie. “I could not have picked a better career. I absolutely love working in construction and I fully support young people interested in exploring the construction industry.”


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