A group of undergraduate and graduate students put their skills to good use this past summer while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity for Greater of Chattanooga. The students assisted in building several homes as part of Service Learning Lab course in the University’s construction management program.

“Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity helps them to learn how to build a home by applying what they’ve learned in the program.  They also receive short training sessions on site about safety and usage of power tools. This is a great learning experience for our students as they serve our community,” Dr. Nesli Alp, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs and Research in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said.

Heather Adcox, graduate student in the Construction Management program, worked on four housing projects this summer. She built a staircase, back deck, house framing, and installed vinyl siding.

“This experience confirmed for me the disconnect between design and construction. I have drawn plenty of stairs, but had never built a set before.  There is nothing like swinging a hammer and actually, physically building a stair to understand what all goes into the construction process,” she said.

“The physical act of doing helps me to understand the industry better. As an architect, seeing and doing helps inform my design decisions. As a construction manager, even, you are rarely out actually participating in the labor.  It’s so easy to forget the physical and mental demand that exists on a job site,” Adcox continued.

In addition to learning practical job skills, Adcox also enjoyed helping others.

“As architects and contractors, the class allows us to use our hands, knowledge, and skill to make a difference in someone’s life. It allows citizens who get caught in their daily lives and the doldrums of their jobs to step out and give back in a meaningful way. I think this has been a great class and I am delighted to have been a part of it. I will definitely continue volunteering for Habitat for Humanity,” she said.

Scott Haulsee, an Engineering Management graduate student, echoed Adcox’s sentiments about the importance of gaining real world experience.

“It is a great experience to be able to step outside the classroom.  In my career so far, I have applied much of what I learned in school, however, in life there is usually not one correct answer to a problem. Despite all the drawings and plans for a house you will find that walls are never square, boards are not straight and you will often have to cut to fit rather than rely on what dimension a drawing indicates,” Haulsee said.

“Particularly for those in the undergraduate program with limited work and life experience, this course will be very beneficial for helping them understand some of these real-world situations,” he continued.

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