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KNOXVILLE — For the past seven years, MBA students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, have devoted part of their fall semester to building houses with low-income families through the Habitat for Humanity program.

The Tennessee Organization of MBAs (TOMBA)’s community service project is featured in a “Volunteers Rock the World!” video now posted on Ready for the World’s Facebook page.

This year, Ready for the World, the campus’ international and intercultural initiative, is focusing on “Our World in Need” with a particular emphasis on poverty. As part of that, Ready for the World has challenged students, faculty, staff and alumni to share what they’re doing to make the world a better place through the “Volunteers Rock the World!” project.

This year’s TOMBA Habitat project began in September and took several weekends, but thanks to the video the MBA group made to chronicle its work, you can see the entire construction job, from beginning to end, in just four minutes and 13 seconds.

Jon Epperson, a second-year MBA candidate who serves as TOMBA president, said this year’s project was especially rewarding because the volunteers got to know the family now living in the home.

“The whole family greeted and thanked us,” he said. “It was less about the house and more about the family. When there is a face behind it, that’s more real.

“The mother came out and took pictures with us and did her bit to keep us motivated. She even helped out one day.”

TOMBA is a student-run organization for MBA students and faculty.

“Our principal goal in TOMBA is to spread awareness about our chosen field — and about the needs of our communities,” Epperson said. “We are really effective for networking and philanthropy.”

Several other UT organizations, including the women’s rowing team and track and field team, helped TOMBA build the Habitat house.

“The Habitat project is also fun because there are so many enthusiastic people who really want to help,” Epperson said. “Time flies by.”

John Batey, the philanthropy chair of TOMBA, created the video, which includes a time-lapsed look at the construction.

Epperson said the video shows the many people who played a role in this major undertaking.

“Everything is just in piles of lumber and from that — as you’ll see in the time-lapsed video — the house comes together so quickly,” Epperson said. “It’s a lot of fun. Framing the house was the most fun. This is the most dynamic part of the video.”

Epperson said the Habitat project was an eye-opener for many of the students who participated.

“Five minutes away from campus, you can have a family in need,” Epperson said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to give back to people less fortunate. It’s important to give people the tools they need to succeed.

“We’re here for such a short time that it’s important to make an impact on the community while we can. This is a tangible impact we’re making by building a house.”

Photo 1: Jon Epperson, far left, and others work on TOMBA’s Habitat for Humanity house.

Photo 2: A crew of UT MBA students and others build a house for a needy Knoxville family in TOMBA’s most recent Habitat for Humanity project.

C O N T A C T :

Bridget Hardy, (865-974-2225,

Amy Blakely, (865-974-5034,