Construction management alumni build the future of Moorhead

Despite never crossing paths at MSUM, Ben Naylor and Aaron Neppl's experiences in the construction management program impacted both of their careers and created a strong professional bond. 

Ben Naylor graduated with a BS in Construction Management in 2016. Initially uncertain about his career path, Ben recalled his childhood curiosity, grabbing his father’s tools to build and deconstruct objects. This passion led him to take a prerequisite construction management course, marking the beginning of his professional journey. 

Aaron Neppl earned his degree in 2018. A summer job in residential construction sparked his interest in construction. Aaron realized he enjoyed the construction field but not hands-on manual labor. A neighbor encouraged him to explore MSUM's construction management program.  

At MSUM, Ben and Aaron found more than education; they discovered a community and a hands-on learning environment that bridged the gap between classroom theory and real-world application.

"The construction management program and department are fantastic. Most of what you do in the program transfers directly to the real world. You build relationships and collaborate with classmates, which is exactly what we do in the field,” Ben says.

Aaron appreciated the real-world experience MSUM provides. "The structure of the construction management classes, the construction site tours, and the small class sizes allow more interaction and learning. The program's emphasis on understanding the contractual side of construction was particularly beneficial," Aaron says.

BS in Construction Management

During their journey at MSUM, they had several professors and mentors, but Rachel Axness was particularly impactful.

"Rachel was key during a transition period for the program. She led MSUM to their first participation in the Pursuit Competition in Minneapolis, a wonderful experience that made the team grow," Aaron says.

Both men now work at Gehrtz Construction Services, Ben as a senior construction manager and Aaron as a construction manager. They continue building on the collaborative skills they learned at MSUM.

"We team up and proudly say that the best construction managers come from MSUM. The collaborative environment has prepared us to tackle projects together efficiently," Ben says.

Their most notable collaboration is the recent Moorhead High School remodeling project. For Ben, leading Phase I with Aaron and preparing for Phase II has been challenging and unique. Ben started the project in 2020, adding parking lots to the school. Then, getting to know the area and working closely with the community made the project special for him. Ben says that seeing the new school come to life and the positive reactions from the staff and students is rewarding.

Aaron shares a similar experience with the Moorhead High School Career Academy. "Working on a project from start to finish is rare, and seeing the final product being used and appreciated by the community is the best part of the job," he says.

The Moorhead High School Career Academy project made Aaron remember the phrase “The last five percent of the project is just as difficult as the first 95 percent.” That project represented the biggest grind in Aaron’s career, it was stressful. In the end, every construction manager, and some owners of Gehrtz were helping. “Getting the certificate of occupancy, staring at the building, and saying, ‘we made it’ is the best part,” Aaron says.

The Moorhead High School project was the first project ever led by two construction managers at Gehrtz.

Ben and Aaron are examples of how MSUM’s construction management program prepares graduates with technical knowledge and the interpersonal and problem-solving skills essential for success in the construction industry.

"During our senior year, we participated in multiple mock interviews, which were crucial for our professional development," Aaron says.

"If you want to go into construction management, go to MSUM," Ben advises.

Ben is focused on leading Phase II of the Moorhead High School project and Aaron is working on the remodeling of Trinity Lutheran Church.


Being the first ACCE-accredited Construction Management program in Minnesota, you will get hands-on experience to prepare you for a professional career managing and leading projects in the construction industry.

Learn more about Construction Management

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