Matthew Grant walked on to the Habitat for Humanity build site as a management major his freshman year thinking he was just fulfilling service hours for a course. He had no idea he was stepping into a life change.
“I came out to a work day and loved it,” he recalled. “All we were doing was putting in vinyl flooring, but it was really cool to me to actually be doing work on an actual house that actual family was going to be living in.”
As his involvement on the project progressed, his passion for the work inspired a new career path. “I realized I could just wake up every day and do this the rest of my life,” he said. When he returned to Clemson as a sophomore, he switched his major to construction science and management (CSM). Now a senior, serving as the advocacy chair for Clemson’s 29th Habitat for Humanity Homecoming build, Grant’s enthusiasm is just as strong as it was three years ago.
Grant’s story highlights the special relationship between the project and the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management. On September 30, Michael (’86) and Robyn Nieri—namesakes of the department and owners of Great Southern Homes—strengthened the relationship further with a gift of $50,000 to Pickens County Habitat for Humanity.
Learning to Lead
Approximately 60 construction science and management majors have contributed to this year’s build, according to Addison Dicks, a senior CSM major who is serving as the homecoming coordinator on the project, and five CSM majors are part of the leadership team for the chapter.
Dicks’ a role has connected the myriad duties necessary to successfully build a house on Bowman Field, staying on top of tasks as diverse as recruiting volunteers, acquiring in-kind donations for materials, applying for permits, arranging security, and even driving 200 miles to Summerville to pick up lumber.
“Balancing it all between classes and trying to manage it has been a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” Dicks said.
“He does the hard work so we can do the fun work,” is how Grant describes Dicks’ role.
According to Endowed Professor Dennis Bausman, the hands-on work experience that the Habitat build creates an ideal learning opportunity for CSM majors.
“We’re preparing young men and women not necessarily to hammer nails, but also to manage the process,” Bausman said. “But you’re a better manager if you have some feeling or experience of actually having gone through it. The lessons they are learning while they are out there working and managing the effort, I think, are invaluable.”
Change of perspective
For some students, the building process and the interactions it lends with the families for whom the homes are built have helped them to frame their lives and their future plans.
“It definitely opens your eyes to a new perspective,” Dicks said. “I’m not going to speak for everybody, but a majority of the people who are blessed enough to come to college have probably come from a good life. When we grew up, we had a great roof over our head, and it’s very easy to take that for granted.”
In Grant’s case, the Habitat builds have had a direct impact on his career choice. He plans to work in construction for a ministry or nonprofit such as Habitat for Humanity after graduation. Until then, he will continue spreading the gospel of construction science to his classmates.
“I love to share what we all love about construction, and beyond that getting to use construction to serve people,” he said.
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