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Sept. 26, 2008

MSU students play special role in ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Now that ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” has set up shop in Holt, Mich., more than 300 Spartans will be in on the action. But instead of being sword-wielding soldiers, these students from the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction will be designers, supervisors and volunteers for the widely popular show.


The students have been asked to utilize their areas of expertise to aid the crews of the show and Mayberry Homes in constructing a new home and landscape design for Arlene Nickless and her three sons. Tim Nickless, Arelene’s husband and the boys’ father, died in January.


Mayberry will build a house for the family within a few days time for the hit show which is hosted by Ty Pennington and airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC. The show finds one deserving family and completely makes over their home in just seven days.


While only trade professionals and their crews will be working on the house, MSU students will still be hands-on. Specialty volunteer teams are being led by SPDC faculty in areas of interior design, construction management, landscape architecture and horticulture and urban and regional planning. 


This is great opportunity for everyone, said Pat Crawford, professor in Landscape Architecture and SPDC coordinator. 


“It’s a chance of a lifetime that the university, the faculty and the students can contribute and work with the community in this way with a venture that’s so huge,” she said.  “And the show is just what makes this possible. And it’s very rare that we get to participate with our professions. How often do you need a landscape architecture volunteer?”


In the past few weeks, students were notified they’d be helping out, and have already designed plans and shopped for supplies.  Still, much of the details of the project are a secret, but the students don’t seem to mind – they’re ready to apply their knowledge.


“There is a lot of community involvement, like camaraderie between the majors,” said Kirsten Freiberger, an urban and regional planning senior. “I think for MSU it’s a national recognition to say we have this outstanding program here, and there are all these students who are learning a lot and can apply it to real world situations.”


Scott Witter, director of the SPDC, said this endeavor is just the type of thing that his students are prepared for at MSU.


“In the future, we want involvement in projects such as Extreme Makeover Habitat for Humanity, redevelopments in East Lansing and Lansing, and even the building of the new Broad Museum here on campus,” he said. “Those are our classrooms now; that’s where we want our students engaged.”


The following are each group’s duties and the faculty member that is supervising them:

  • Crawford, an award-winning landscape architect who took first place in the DaimlerChrysler AG design competition for the Dundee plant, is heading up the Landscape Architecture Design Team, which is composed of three students. ABC has approved the group’s design which will take about 30 hours to complete.  The construction on the landscape will begin at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
  • April Allen will lead the Interior Design Team.  There are 20 students in the group who will work through the night on Thursday to help with interior finishing touches.
  • The Construction Management Cobra Team is led by Tariq Abdelhamid.  There will be three shifts for the 24-hour workdays that start Sept. 29 and end on Oct. 3. There are 30 students on this team who will act as assistant supervisors at the construction site, supplementing the supervision provided by Mayberry Homes.

Anyone is welcome to the site to support the effort.  There will be shuttles that will transport people to the construction site from the parking area. 


“The spectator section is vital for all the volunteers to keep spirits up during the 106-hour marathon and is a place we can really show our school spirit,” Crawford said. “Be creative, be energetic, be us.”


Michigan State is hosting a Web site during the project for information, updates, student blogs, transportation options and more. Visit the site at


For more information and to donate funds, Visit Mayberry Homes at


“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which has won back-to-back Emmy Awards as Best Reality Program (noncompetitive), is entering its 6th season on ABC. The program is produced by Endemol USA, a division of Endemol Holding. Anthony Dominici is the executive producer; and David Goldberg is the president of Endemol USA.



Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.