<![CDATA[For many students at ACU, service to the community has been an integral part of their college experience. Like any town, Abilene has plenty of people who just need a helping hand. A group of students in the Department of Art and Design, led by professor Brandon Young, have come up with a way to help out the best way they know how – by applying the skills learned in their classes.
Through a project aptly titled Merge!, the students are trying to strengthen the bond between ACU and the community. Along the way they merged aspects of their design skills with a heart of service. The students selected a local family in need and gave the family's home a complete makeover.
"I wholly believe in integrating real-life projects into the way students learn. This way it is more hands-on, and we are still taking in the same information we would learn in the classroom, but would instead be exercising our teachings and skills for a greater cause," says Kirsten Haugaard, interior design major from Monrovia, Calif. "It also introduces real-life situations, such as financial barriers and difficulties within the house that may prohibit certain ways to design."
Haugaard, along with three of her fellow interior design majors headed up the project, with Haley Buffington of The Woodlands, Lisha Cottrill of Rockwall and Melanie Bartholomew of San Antonio playing vital leadership roles.
"Our goal was to select a family that lives near ACU that would be willing to let us into their home," Haley says. "The family that we picked is a multi-generational family, the great-grandmother down to her great-grandchildren. They are too sweet."
The mission of the project caught on, with several local businesses and churches jumping on board to help, says Haley.
For Kirsten, the project has been far more than just an opportunity to apply skills learned in her classes – it has helped focus her career goals in a mission-oriented sense. She hopes to one day do design work for those in need as a career and a ministry.
"Projects like this are important because it is not merely "redecorating" or even redesigning a home, but the true significance behind it is to provide a warm, comfortable and loving home; everyone deserves that," she says.

Project Merge

Project Merge video