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Student’s work could help restore church’s glory

Brianne Slick Merrillville will earn her degree constructisciences from Purdue Calumet this month. | Phoprovided

Brianne Slick of Merrillville will earn her degree in construction sciences from Purdue Calumet this month. | Photo provided

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Updated: June 11, 2013 6:11AM



The prospect of restoring Gary’s once majestic downtown City Methodist Church after nearly four decades of neglect may seem highly unlikely.

But if it were to happen, a Purdue University Calumet construction sciences student has done the initial heavy lifting, so to speak, of preparation.

Brianne Slick of Merrillville is on schedule to graduate next weekend from Purdue Calumet’s construction management and engineering technology program. One of her final assignments has been to complete an extensive design project, required of all seniors, that enables her to apply lessons she has learned as a prospective construction project manager.

Her senior project, one she has been working on since last fall, is that of developing restoration plans for the sanctuary within the multi-faceted circa-1925 church, once considered among the most magnificent in Indiana.

Changing times in northwest Indiana, however, led to the church’s demise, closing and its ultimate abandonment in 1975.

When a Gary faith-based community advocate sought to find out what it would take to restore the grand old worship facility, Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon got involved and contacted professor and head of the university’s Department of Construction Sciences and Organizational Leadership Anthony Gregory.

“I put it out there as a possible senior project for our students, and Brianne stepped forward,” Gregory said. “She researched the church’s history and did a proposal last fall focusing on the sanctuary portion only. Then she did an analysis to determine whether or not the sanctuary could be made usable and if so, what the rehabbing would cost.”

For the ambitious 25-year-old dean’s list student, the project got off to a challenging start.

“I couldn’t find any architecture plans for the church, so I had to do my own measurements,” she said. “Professor Gregory helped with the perimeter measures, and I did the interior myself.”

She then went about employing lessons of her education.

“I had to decide what needed demolishing and what could be replaced,” she said. “Then I did a quantity take-off to determine material needs. I also used the RSMeans software program, which provides material and labor costs based on geographic location.”

Though admitting the project at times was frustrating and overwhelming, “I fell in love with (the building) right away,” she said. “The sheer beauty of the architecture and that it brought so many people together appealed to me.”

Along with other Purdue Calumet construction management and engineering technology seniors, she presents her project, including anticipated refurbishing costs, today, May 10, on campus.

Then a few weeks following graduation, she begins her professional career in construction as an estimator with an electrical contractor in Denver, Colo.

Like so many students, Slick had other ideas of what she thought she wanted to study after high school. Briefly, she tried civil engineering. Then for two and a half years, she explored veterinary science while working as a vet assistant. Though she adopted three dogs and two cats, her career path remained uncertain.

Meantime, while continuing to assist her father with home remodeling, she took the advice of family members and friends who encouraged her to resume her college education.

“At the time, I didn’t realize construction management was a degree,” she said. “Purdue Calumet appealed to me because it offered an accredited degree program nearby.”

Three years of study and two paid internships later, she acknowledges that the Purdue Calumet program “covers the fundamentals of construction as to what you need to know in order to manage projects.”

She adds that she also has benefited from helpful professors and flexible course scheduling.

“Brianne is one of those students with a critical mind who makes a professor better,” said Jose Pena, associate professor of civil engineering technology. “I have no doubt she will be a success in any area and endeavor she initiates. I wish we had more students with her discipline, drive and, above all, capacity for analyzing, asking questions and looking beyond the surface of things.”

Class of nearly 950 to graduate May 19: Purdue Calumet’s spring graduating class looks forward to earning 237 master’s degrees, 687 baccalaureate degrees and 24 associate degrees during commencement exercises May 19 at the Radisson Star Plaza Theater in Merrillville. This class increases to more than 47,700 the total number of degrees earned by Purdue Calumet graduates.



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