Gift to support real estate research

A $600,000 donation from New Orleans real estate executive Robert W. Merrick will help support the University of New Orleans’ Institute for Economic Development and Real Estate Research.

The institute is a public service division of the College of Business Administration and provides technical assistance and applied research. The gift will establish the Robert W. Merrick Support Fund.

Each year, the institute holds the Dr. Ivan Miestchovich Economic Outlook and Real Estate Forecast Seminars, one for New Orleans and one for the north shore. The events draw hundreds of real estate professionals from around the region who rely on the information and analysis furnished at the seminars.

Merrick is the chairman and CEO of Latter and Blum Inc. and has served as a member of the UNO Foundation board of directors. He also contributed to the creation of the Max Derbes III Professorship in Real Estate.

Loyola students host Syria refugee benefit

In conjunction with the eighth annual Student Peace Conference running through Friday at Loyola University, students in the school’s Middle East peace studies program have organized a gala to raise funds to help Syrian refugees.

Artists, poets, dancers and musicians will join students to raise awareness of the ongoing Syrian crisis.

The “Syria and Beyond Refugee Benefit” will run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday at Nunemaker Auditorium in Monroe Hall. The event is open to the public; tickets will be sold at the door for $5. Donations are welcome.

Mona’s Cafe and Deli will provide light Middle Eastern fare, and Sodexo Services will contribute drinks and services.

The event will feature music from Delta Blues singer-songwriter Jonny Azari; readings by Tulane University scholars Teresa Villa-Ignacio and Edwige Tamalet Talbayev in Arabic, French and English; and a reading of Arabic works by Andy Young, a poet, editor and essayist teaching at Tulane, and journalist Khaled Hegazzi.

Classical Arabic music will be performed by Elias Khalaf, a native of Lebanon and former assistant professor of computer science at Loyola, and Nidal Abirafeh, a native of Lebanon and an assistant professor of medicine at the Tulane Medical Center.

Social rights activist Mwende “FreeQuency” Katwiwa will read poetry in English, and Zohreh Khaleghi, a poet, artist, art critic and journalist, will read poetry in Persian and English.

Members of New Orleans’ Crescent Lotus Belly Dance Studio will perform, and the musical group Love Child will perform as well.

Proceeds will be distributed among the American Refugee Committee, Catholic Relief Services and Doctors Without Borders.

2015 UNO graduate gets Fulbright grant

University of New Orleans graduate Dallas Rolnick has won a yearlong Fulbright grant to study at the University of Leoben in Austria.

Rolnick, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering in 2015, will be part of a research team that studies tunnel-boring machines. His proposal was first approved by the National Fulbright Committee and then selected by the host nation.

Rolnick said he first became interested in tunnel construction while spending a semester in Innsbruck, Austria, as part of the UNO-Innsbruck International Summer School.

He received a research scholarship from the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation to study the Brenner Base Tunnel, a nearly 40-mile rail tunnel under construction in Austria that will become the longest transportation tunnel in the world.

Researchers at the University of Leoben are working to improve accuracy in the forecasting of tunnel excavations and to advance the capabilities of tunnel-boring machines.

Rolnick will field-test new machines. If the equipment is successful, it will become standard on tunnel-boring machines worldwide, he said.