burns-playhouse-2016On April 22, 2016, some 30 students and alumni from the Daniels College of Business, joined a group of community partners to build a playhouse from the ground up – right on the grounds of the University of Denver campus.

This is the third year of what is known as the Playhouse Project. Students from The Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management (RECM) spent the day constructing a life-size playhouse for four-year-old Samantha Chavez, the child of a disabled Iraqi veteran.

RECM director, Dr. Barbara Jackson believes it is important for students to see how what they do makes a difference in the community. She says, “This whole idea came about as an expression of how we connect people, purpose and projects.”

Every project RECM participates in presents a learning opportunity for students. Pro-lift and Clark Construction provided use of a crane, giving many students their first opportunity to learn and practice the specialized skill taught on site by a company representative. Swinerton Builders provided personal safety equipment, which was delivered by an RECM alum who now works for the company.

“Your career doesn’t start after you graduate,” Jackson says. “Your career begins the first day you show up on campus, and that’s why it’s so important for us to connect these students to as many companies as we can.”

The primary sponsor, Oakwood Homes, was founded 25 years ago by an alum of the Daniels Construction Management School, Pat Hamill. Hamill has remained supportive of the School since graduating over 30 years ago.

Dr. Eric Holt teaches the construction building systems class. He is proud to see the classroom expand into hands-on learning. “This is great experience for our students, including those who came back to help,” Holt says.

Raphael Hernandez (MBA 2012), is also an Iraqi veteran. He flew in from New York City to help build the playhouse. Since his 2009-2010 deployment in Baghdad, he has always looked for ways to support other veterans.

“I am happy to help out. The students did an amazing job – worked so hard, and hopefully I can continue to be involved in the future,” Hernandez says.

Salvador “Sal” Chavez, his wife Jennifer and their daughter Samantha were selected after a recommendation from the Colorado Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization created to offer support, programs and services to veterans and service members. Chavez spent nearly nine years in active duty for the U.S. Army until he was hit by four IEDs while serving in Northern Iraq.burns-playhouse-complete-2016

“It is a really beautiful house. I already know I am going to be in there a lot myself,” Chavez says. “Where we live, there are not many kids around, and it’s a real busy area. With this I know she’ll have something to play with in our backyard and be safe.”

Dr. Brent Chrite is Dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. “When the University of Denver talks about a great private university for the public good, this is really a manifestation of that, and represents, in many ways – the best of what we do,” Chrite says. “We are building community, while enhancing the academic experience for our students.”