Andrews University students make tiny homes and a big difference

Tiny houses are all the rage. After years of McMansions, itsy bitsy homes the size of sheds are suddenly in vogue, from the TV show “Tiny House Nation” to a planned community in Cleveland.

Fashion was the furthest thing from the minds of Andrews University students, though, when they constructed homes that could be used to house the needy. Traditionally, students travel to Bolivia to build houses, but this year, charity came closer to home.

“We launched it not really knowing how it was going to turn out, but the students really liked it,” said Carey Carscallen, dean of the School of Architecture, Art & Design, who organized the project involving with five graduate students.

One house — “The Shed” — remained in a warehouse, unfinished. The other, nicknamed “Bay View” is a 148 square-foot marriage of practicality and luxury. It’s small enough to fit on an 18-foot trailer, but big enough to contain two bedrooms, a complete kitchen and bathroom. A website,, tracked the progress of the project, which Carscallen hopes to repeat to provide tiny homes with needy residents of nearby Benton Harbor.

The project wasn’t just cool. It made students focus on different skillsets — teamwork, design, planning, maximizing limited resources — that architecture students don’t always get to use anyway. And it made them think differently about what defines a home, Carscallen said.

Thinking differently. That’s what faculties do at Andrews University and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities.

The schools are guided by passion and community. Class sizes are small enough so students not only know their professors, they form lifetime bonds. Professors pride themselves on working closely with students to help them forge their own path, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.