Students help build house — and their learning community

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Claire Dufur wouldn't call herself a "people person."

"I'm typically better with animals than I am with humans," says the pre-veterinary major from from Maple Plain, Minn.

Before a recent service project with Habitat for Humanity, she didn't consider herself much of a "hammer person," either.

"I have taken a woodworking class. Building a shelf, a stool, a bowl — really tiny things," she says. "But nothing like this."

Dufur is part a BCU Learning Community pilot program that focuses on teaching freshmen beyond the classroom, by way of professional mentorships, internships and service projects. One of those service projects included a recent Friday morning spent at a Habitat building site in Sioux City's Riverside area.

The group of 18 students and three professors put up walls on a house and a shed in the backyard. Some had never swung a hammer before — not that you could tell by the time they were done.

"I was surprised how it went by so quickly," Dufur says. "It seemed like we had just gotten there and all the sudden they announced that we'd be leaving in 15 minutes. I was like, 'Wait … what?'"

Her learning community is made up of a handful of freshmen from across the spectrum: Athletes. Art students. Animal lovers.

It's all part of the pilot program spearheaded by Dr. Ryan Allen, who developed the learning community program as a way to prepare incoming freshmen while embracing BCU's Catholic, Franciscan mission, which values service to those in need.

"We say we're Franciscan all the time," Allen says. "This is one way to show it."

Dufur isn't likely done with housebuilding. She'll also be serving a Habitat for Humanity internship — professional experience that makes up another component of the learning community.

"They want us to focus on service to the community, not just as a requirement, but also as something we can learn from, continue to do after Briar Cliff and to help us build a network," she says.

"It's pretty cool to be able to help people."

Perhaps she's more of a "people person" than she thought.

Tags: Campus, Alumni, Admissions, Justice, Parents