“Extremely enlightening” – that’s how Rebecca Romano remembers her trip to Mexico. Part of her Kent State University Master of Architecture program, her study abroad adventure not only added to her understanding of the community and culture for her project, but also provided her with a broader understanding of the relevance of site considerations beyond the physical dimensioning.
There was so much to take in – energizing and immersive, the trip gave Romano new insight into the people and places crucial to her future success, professionally and otherwise.
“The Mexico trip allowed me to create a closer relationship with my peers and my professor and offered me an opportunity to see firm-culture outside of the US which I am sure would not be an opportunity granted to me on a vacation to Mexico,’ she says.
Learning at the College of Architecture and Environmental Design is experiential. Students engage with others in the industry through various travel opportunities, both locally and abroad. For example, Master of Landscape Architecture students often make trips with faculty to the Great Lakes, where they explore the relationship of communities to water.
Learning on campus is just as dynamic. The college is part of Kent State University. Located in Ohio, it is a top public research institution renowned for creating leaders in business, healthcare, architecture, education and more. With more than 16 Pulitzer Prize winners — and growing — the university is ranked among the top 100 best graduate schools in the country. More than 33,000 students representing 98 countries call this university home.
At the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, they gain skills and knowledge that have both immediate and long-lasting impacts on the world, from urban settings to landscapes, buildings and interiors. They prepare to improve the quality of life, enhance the physical environment and protect the public welfare through the design of the built environment.
What sets their education apart from other architecture schools is the many opportunities for students to see the world – where novelty, new heights and new sensations prepare them to be future built environment practitioners with an edge.
For example, students often have the opportunity to travel for design projects in cities and sites such as Los Angeles, Washington DC, Miami, Boston, New York, and New Orleans, among others. There, they experience the context of their theoretical studies, engage with constituents and visit professional design firms.
INDEX studio courses are a large part of this. Part of the Master of Urban Design, Master of Landscape Architecture and Master of Architecture programs, the INDEX studio is a cross-disciplinary initiative dedicated to the comparative analysis and design of a large site in Cleveland and a referenced global city. Through this, students explore their relationships to water, climate justice and more, and learn to address these through design.
To date, INDEX studio projects have included travel to Havana, Beirut, Medellin, Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Mexico City. In several instances, Kent State University has worked with partner institutions such as the Lebanese American University and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico.
During her trip, Romano got a close look at life, culture, and architecture in Mexico City. From busy nightlife to early work days, she saw that residents there never seem to stop being active within the community — something images and photographs can never capture.
“Being able to experience the spaces with my own eyes, I was able to define their relevance in not only my own project, but also in the scale of architectural projects that I have now been subjected to,” she says.
“My biggest takeaway from the experience was that it is vital for students to travel and experience architecture outside of the US. Similar to the study abroad opportunity, this trip offered my peers and me a once- in-a-lifetime experience to travel and view architecture through our own lenses.”
Disciplines are supplemented by a Schidlowski Emerging Faculty Fellow visiting professor program, in which faculty and external experts bring fresh topics and perspectives directly derived from the industry to the classroom each year. Recently, this saw students learn from and build deep ties with Mexican design culture, an initiative led by visiting women architects.
These led to even more opportunities. Six of the accomplished women architects have already offered graduate studios in the Master of Architecture program, with another scheduled in the spring of 2023.
The result? Students who are exposed to the practice of architecture and environmental design, at home and beyond, long before they graduate. They are set to become professionals who are aware of the industry’s challenges and are able to approach them with curiosity, solutions, and a genuine desire to engage with others. Only with this can we begin to form a better, more inclusive and environmentally-conscious society.