OU architecture students, faculty reflect on Hurricane Harvey relief trips


Ben Bigelow, Haskell & Irene Lemon Construction Science Division director, works in his office in the College of Architecture on Oct. 11. Bigelow used a computer program to determine who the groups would be able to help.

Jadyn Watson-Fisher

It’s been one month since the University of Oklahoma’s College of Architecture returned from its first trip to help Houston residents with cleanup after Hurricane Harvey, and those who went are still reflecting on the impact.

“I just thought this would be a good experience for students to do service learning, and certainly, there’s tremendous need,” said Ben Bigelow, director of the College of Architecture’s construction science division.

The college strives to offer service opportunities by bringing students of different disciplines together, Bigelow said.

“We had students from architecture and construction and environmental design who all participated,” Bigelow said. “Having students that are going to go work in these unique and different disciplines, getting them to interact on a social and personal level, it fulfills goals that the college has.”

The college, which held a fundraiser for student enrichment activities last month, relied on sponsorships for the trips. Bigelow said he reached out to Oklahoma homebuilders’ associations and construction companies that provided approximately $4,500 in funds and $1,000 in supplies.

Two groups went to Houston during the weekends of Sept. 9 and Sept. 22, and assisted residents — a total of 10 homes — near the Spring community with basic clean up and the gutting of their homes, Bigelow said.

Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25 and moved over southeast Texas from Aug. 26-30, according to the Weather Channel. Most spots picked up an anywhere from 15 to 30 inches of rain with some locations hitting the 50-inch mark, according to the Washington Post.

Architecture freshman Chanae Carter said it meant a lot to serve the community and help it move forward.

“For me, it (was) about going and serving wherever needed,” Carter said. “It wasn’t the most glamorous job. It wasn’t super exciting, but it was so necessary and practical to hands-on help these people start over.”