As a sociology major at Tulane University, Margot Ferster had planned to study social work in graduate school and use her education to help those in need. Nearly three years later, Ferster is helping the needy, but she has chosen a different academic path in order to make a difference in people’s lives.
Working toward a master’s degree in preservation studies, Margot Ferster helps make New Orleans homes safe for elderly and disabled citizens and veterans. (Photo by John Welsh, SightSense Productions)
Ferster is working toward her master’s degree in preservation studies
at the Tulane School of Architecture. She found herself drawn to the world of historic architecture when, after graduating from Tulane in 2011, she joined AmeriCorps as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer in New Orleans.
A year later, she began working with Rebuilding Together
, an AmeriCorps program that provides extensive home rehabilitation and modification services to low-income homeowners.
Ferster immersed herself in the work, which included supervising volunteers. So impressed was Rebuilding Together that the group named her its Member of the Year at its national conference in Washington, D.C., last November.
“I was always interested in preservation, but when I got to do the hands-on work on these houses, these old shotguns, I learned so much,” Ferster says. “We work with the elderly and disabled, and a lot of veterans. Some families have been living in these houses for generations, but they need critical home repairs to make them safe and healthy.”
A house may need a handicapped-accessible ramp or shower grab bars, or it may need energy-efficient windows.
“The whole idea is for these homeowners to be able to age in place,” Ferster says.
A Virginia native, Ferster said she plans to stay in New Orleans once she receives her master’s degree.
“I love the architectural history of New Orleans and the idea of urban conservation. I’d like to find an opportunity where I can work in the field and oversee restoration projects.”