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Residential Construction Student at Morrisville State College Helps Build House in Town of Eaton, is Program’s Only Female Graduate

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. —Setting the floor joists wasn’t the hardest part of the day’s task—it was keeping the bright sun out of her eyes that was giving Susan Chase the most trouble.

Chase, 19, of Long Island, is among Morrisville State College residential construction students who spend Thursday afternoons building a home on the corner of Hart Road and English Avenue in the town of Eaton as part of a class project.

Lugging boards and heavy equipment and laboring beside classmates twice her size doesn’t intimidate the slender, 5’3” Chase, the only female graduating from the college’s residential construction program during commencement exercises May 17 at 1 p.m. on Drake Field.

Although she once considered a career in chemistry, Chase only has construction on her mind these days, as do others just as intent on the building task at hand.

Throughout upcoming semesters, students in various classes will be working on the house, an annual project for the residential construction program, turning the once empty parcel of property landscaped with valleys and picturesque views into a spectacular home.

The transformation is taking place quickly.

Before long, the walls will be going up on the 1,496 square-foot ranch-style home that will boast a kitchen, breakfast nook and breakfast bar embellished with ceiling to floor windows and sliding glass doors, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, first-floor laundry room, full basement and two-stall garage.

Cathedral ceilings and a large wrap-around deck with sliding glass doors overlooking acres of hills will add to its charm.

The house is expected to be completed by spring 2009 and will be put up for sale.

The pounding of hammers and students’ voices aren’t the only sounds echoing on the two-acre lot. Students are receiving direction from professors who are working alongside them.

John “Jack” Leva, Morrisville State College class of 2007, a technical assistant at Morrisville State College and owner of Leva Homes in LaFayette, is supervising the residential construction program’s annual project along with Bruce Revette, assistant professor of residential construction.

Alumnus Richard Warner, of Canastota, has also pitched in to help.

“I was more than happy to be part of this,” said Warner, who received a degree in residential construction two years ago at age 62.

Professors in various departments will also be assisting and applying their respective expertise, teaching students the tricks of the trade in the classroom, then taking them on-site where they do the actual work.

Students are involved with building the house from the ground up, assisting with everything from site layout to framing, and installing the plumbing and landscaping.

The annual house-building project teaches students about construction management and provides them with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a real-world setting.

When it is completed, it will be the fourth home constructed by Morrisville State College students. Two others, also located in the town of Eaton, are now occupied, and the third was recently sold.

“Students are obtaining vital experience and skills building these houses which gives them a competitive edge in the job market when they graduate,” Revette said.

That’s one of the reasons Jeremy Watkins, 20, of Tully, enrolled in the residential construction program.

He’s following in the footsteps of his father and uncle who build houses and plans to get right into the workforce after he graduates in May.

“You can learn in a classroom, but gaining the actual field experience is what it is all about,” Chase said.

Chase, who wants to build apartment complexes some day, has been gaining a lot of confidence on the site and knows she has many career options available to her after she graduates, like building houses, surveying or plumbing.
Gabe Mariani, of Warners, a residential construction student who will graduate in May, appreciates the variety of opportunities the residential construction program provides graduates.

“We’re learning and doing a little bit of everything,” he said. “The experience has helped me gain skills and also decide exactly what I want to do.”

Students will work on the house until it is framed, then take a break over the summer. The rest of the house will be completed by students in various classes and labs in upcoming semesters, including Plumbing, Masonry and Foundation, and Estimating and Assessment, and Secondary Wood Processing.

The project also involves students in Morrisville State College’s wood products technology and architectural studies and design and landscape architectural studies programs.

Through the residential construction program at Morrisville, students not only gain technical expertise, but they also acquire business skills through coursework in business law, employee supervision, accounting and even public speaking.

Morrisville State College’s residential construction curriculum is designed to provide graduates with the background, experience and knowledge of materials and techniques for a successful career in any segment of the residential construction industry. Hands-on experience is emphasized through coursework in construction techniques, energy systems, sanitation, masonry systems, foundation concepts and surveying. Students receive an associate in occupational studies (A.O.S.) degree. The program is a ThinkPad curriculum in which the use of laptop computers is integrated into courses.

Upon graduation, students’ employment opportunities include working as an estimator, home inspector, job scheduler, job supervisor, materials purchasing agent or material distribution agent. Students may also become involved with retail and contractor sales or real estate development, or begin their own businesses as contractors.

Morrisville State College offers more than 75 bachelor and associate degrees and options. Considered to be one of the most technologically advanced colleges in the nation for its ThinkPad University program and wireless technology initiative, the college was the first in the nation to comprehensively replace landlines in residence halls with individual cellular phones. Morrisville State College was also chosen as one of the top five colleges in the nation for campus activities by Campus Activities magazine.

The Morrisville State College Norwich Campus offers associate degree programs in accounting, business, computer systems technology, office administration, liberal arts transfer, nursing, early childhood, criminal justice and human services to south central New York residents and employers. Students may also apply coursework to other associate or bachelor degrees at the main campus.