You may not expect to find a bespectacled Classical Studies professor on your average build site, but Dr. Dennis Kehoe has been a familiar face to NOAHH since 1991.
“I first went with a Tulane Catholic Center group and ended up becoming friends with the construction supervisor,” he said. “I kept going back and eventually became a board member.”
Since 2007 he’s been encouraging his students to connect with their communities in his course “Non-Profits and Community Engagement.” Students spend three Saturdays of the semester working on Habitat homes.
“It gets them out of the Tulane bubble,” he says. “Working all day physically is something that many students aren’t very familiar with. I think that they learn what it’s like to do this kind of labor and how much work goes into building a house.”
What Kehoe says is most valuable is the social capital built between the students and Habitat partner families. Working side by side on site, students are able to connect with community members they wouldn’t encounter on campus.
“The best experience of this was this past year when they worked with a homeowner that was really young,” he explained. “That was a really nice experience because they were close in age, but had very different backgrounds and it was great for them to get to experience that.”
Overall, Kehoe believes that what students gain from a day on site is just as valuable as a day in the classroom.
“They learn the humility of volunteering,” he said. “Sometimes they have to do jobs that are not particularly exciting, but they do them. They work really hard and do a fine job.”