April 30th 2021 marks a moment in history for Mississippi State University.
The Building Construction Science degree is a program marked for the most elite students. This competitive program is limited to entry and requires a vigorous application process that ensures the best of the best are able to grow their true passion for the construction and building industry. As part of the renowned Southeastern Conference, Mississippi State lies in the heart of the south in Starkville, Mississippi. Jazmine is the first Black woman to graduate from the Building Construction Science program and has overcome many societal challenges to earn this accomplishment. On behalf of National Women in Roofing, we are incredibly proud of this moment. We are even more proud of this person, Jazmine Melton. We decided to reach out to her to ask her a bit about her experiences and her advice to future generations. Below you will find her answers as well as a piece written about her by her mentor while interning at Graham Roofing.
To you, we raise our hats. You are an inspiration to the future of this industry, to the future of this world, and to the girls that follow behind you. We applaud you and your unwavering courage and determination!
National Women in Roofing- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee Chairs
1. Why did you choose construction as your focus in college? A. I knew I wanted to do something that involves buildings. I originally wanted to do architecture and realized it wasn’t for me and then I discovered Building Construction Science. Once I started the program, I fell in love with this industry.
2. What are your usual careers that are expected from that degree? A. Project Management, superintendents, estimators
3. What were your experiences? Good and Bad. A. Some bad experiences would be the micro aggression comments that some of my peers would have. The lack of respect for my opinions sometimes. One of the bad experiences that happened all the time was when there was group work there was me and the other minorities in the class then everybody else. It happened so much that after a while we just went on ahead and became group members because that’s what we were used to. The good experiences I had was being able to participate in a building competition in Vegas, I was able to help host our first summer camp for Building Construction Science, and I was able to help with advising for my major and take family and student on tours for our program.
4. Is there a way to combat the issues? A. A way to combat the main issue would be for teachers to pick our groups and try to mix them up for each project so that everyone works with someone new and also learn skills from everyone in the class and not just the same 4 people every time.
5. What could be differentiators between you and your peers that could attribute to not receiving immediate offers? A. I never understood why it was so hard for me to get an internship or even interview with a company, and until this day I still don’t know. The biggest difference besides me being a Black woman and most of my peers being white males is most of them have a construction background and I started right in college. Our learning curves are different. I may not know as much as them but I am willing to learn.
6. Why do you believe there aren’t more women, specifically Black women, in this program? A. The acceptance for women is different. In the South the acceptance for Black women is even harder. People think there is no more racism, but now it’s just not in your face and open how it used to be but it is still there. Many men will respect a woman in this field but there are some that don’t think women can handle this job, and we can! Women have to brush things off in order to be a part of the boys club. You have to be ten times better at your job than they are, your mistakes are always looked at, you have to work hard just to get the respect you deserve in this industry.
7. How does it feel to be the first? A. It definitely feels surreal, it took a lot of work and a lot of dedication to stay in this rigorous program. It also took support from family and friends. I also feel a duty to be a mentor to those that are coming after me.
8. What advice would you give the next person? A. Always remember that you can do this if you put your mind to it. Never give up even when people doubt your abilities. Keep your head high and always be 10 times better than what you think you should be.
9. What advice would you give the roofing industry for the future of our workforce? A. Always make your employees feel confident and feel like family. Get the information out there, trades are not always advertised, you could find someone that will love the industry, but doesn’t know about it.
What is said about Jazmine:
Despite the difficulties Jazmine faced as the first African American female in her school construction program, she remained determined and focused which has paid off. Jazmine graduated Friday, April 30, 2021 and has accepted a job in Knoxville, TN. Graham Roofing is so proud of her. We will miss her but wish her nothing but the best. She has made us a better company by sharing her story of how she is overcoming adversity. She has a story to tell that others need to hear. As we all know, our industry desperately needs more people including females and other minorities. We need to listen and LEARN from Jazmine’s experience as a non-traditional construction student. She’s paving the way and will be a positive and encouraging mentor to other females entering the construction industry.
Jazmine is an amazing young woman with a bright future ahead of her. I cannot wait to see what her future holds!
I see her being a motivational speaker to other minorities in her future 😊!
Christee Holbrook, President
Graham Roofing Incorporated
West Point, MS