Woodlawn Residential Commons: Building a more inclusive workforce on the South Side

The University of Chicago Civic Engagement – Growing up in Woodlawn, Michelle King says she was the “handywoman” among her five siblings — so when her dad had a nearby carpentry job, she often tagged along. “He used to tell me ‘Don’t become a carpenter because they work too hard,’” King remembers. “He said become an electrician, and my first day as an electrician I was like, ‘Dad, electricians work really hard!’”

This month King’s hard work paid off as the Woodlawn Residential Commons at the University of Chicago, the first high-rise building of its scale that King has served as electrical foreman for, welcomed its first residents. Students — who recently moved into the new 1,309-bed dining and residence hall at reduced density to limit COVID-19 exposure risk — can admire King and other local, women, and minority workers and contractors’ handiwork in everything from the building’s electrical systems to its freshly-painted dorm room walls.