When he was in high school, Franklin Alvis of Colorado Springs was convinced he’d attend college out of state. Then his family home burned to the ground in the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, which made him want stay in Colorado.
“I still wanted the opportunity to go back home often and make memories at my new house,” Alvis says.
Participating in the design of his family’s new home — seeing the architect’s small scale model and how the house would look in 3D — made Alvis consider a career in architecture.
But after he learned more about the long, expensive path to becoming an architect, a friend suggested CSU’s top-notch construction management program in the College of Health and Human Sciences, where Alvis has flourished. He served as president of the student chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and captain of the sustainable design team in the Associated Schools of Construction’s annual competition.
In January 2017, about a month before the ASC competition, Alvis was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His doctors advised him to start treatment immediately, but Alvis asked if he could postpone chemotherapy until he could lead his team in the competition they had spent five months preparing for.
“It was all about who has control of the situation,” he recalls. “I said to myself, ‘There’s no way I’m missing this.’”
His doctors agreed to the postponement, and the team took first place.
“He showed us what a role model should be in the more challenging times,” says Associate Professor Rodolfo Valdes-Vasquez, one of Alvis’ primary mentors in the department.
After the ASC competition, Alvis completed nine weeks of chemo, while maintaining a reduced course schedule.
“I wanted to keep busy and retain some sense of normalcy,” says Alvis, who’s also been a climbing wall assistant at the Student Recreation Center for three years.
Now he has a clean bill of health, and the Honors Program member will graduate Dec. 15 with a 3.8 GPA, after completing a thesis about the feasibility of greywater reuse systems in university residence halls.
Like most of CSU’s construction management graduates, Alvis has had multiple job offers. He will start as a project engineer with Skanska next April, after he tours Europe.
Similar to climbing a rock wall or rebuilding after a fire, he says beating cancer was about taking one step at a time, and he credits the tight-knit CM department — especially Valdes-Vasquez — for his success.
“I was able to make it through treatment with my head held high,” Alvis says. “You have to remember that it will get better eventually, and that you just have to buckle down and get it done.”