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July 13, 2011

ULM and Monroe Housing Authority partnership benefits elderly

Through community partnerships, University of Louisiana at Monroe students are building lasting relationships and impacting lives, while also gaining experiences that reach far beyond classroom instruction.

The ULM School of Construction Management and the Monroe Housing Authority started a partnership in January 2010 to supply construction management majors with internships that enable them to assess the physical condition of MHA retirement properties.

The agreement allows the ULM students to help low-income residents by predicting and forestalling maintenance and safety issues, in addition to finding alternatives to improving energy efficiency at their property.

Part of a green initiative involving the MHA, the project includes recycling, installation of water and energy efficient devices, and construction of ponds for water self-sufficiency.

Implementation of energy efficient, or green alternatives, helps reduce operating costs and utility bills for residents, while also saving energy and water.

Project Coordinator at MHA, Eddna Castro, (M.B.A., '08) collaborated with Dr. Keith Parker, department head of the ULM School of Construction Management, to eventually develop a partnership that could provide students an opportunity to teach, learn, and give back to the community.

"This practice helps students develop and strengthen analytical, presentation and research skills," Castro states. "The bottom line of this agreement is that it benefits low-and-medium-income people living in MHA properties."

Interns inspect properties and develop reports. Based on visits to occupied residences, the interns present recommendations to MHA officials.

In accordance with the MHA "green initiative," the recommendations include changes in energy and water efficient alternatives.

According to Castro, this could account for 20 percent savings in energy on average and 15 percent savings in water consumption, which should be measurable six months to one year after installation.

After receiving her new HVAC unit, water heater, and appliances, Martha Perry, resident of Ouachita Grand Plaza in downtown Monroe has seen the benefits.

"My electricity bill has gone down," said Perry. "In fact, everything has gone down."

The interns also interact with residents while getting their input on what needs to be done in each unit increasing the intern's ability to assess the resident's needs.

Resident Ethel Brown said she enjoys interacting with the interns.

"They come in and inspect the apartments for safety," she said. "I have really enjoyed having all of the different students come by."

Intern Mallory Murphy, a senior Construction Management major from Bastrop, finds the interactions with the residents to be the most rewarding.

"I love coming here," said Murphy. "The residents want to talk to you, and get to know you. Getting out here and seeing things firsthand has helped me become more aware of what the residents need."

Frank Wilcox, MHA executive director is appreciative of the work the interns have done.

"The student-interns have added an extra spice to life at the administrative offices to MHA," he said.

"This cooperative endeavor with ULM has been a tremendous success, and we look forward to many more years of participation in this partnership."

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