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Student Profiles

Student Profiles

Rachel Hilvert

Background
I started thinking about architecture as a career in high school in Cincinnati. I became more interested in pursuing it as a career after working in my uncle's architecture firm in Chicago during my junior year in college.

I graduated from New York University in 2002 with a B.A. in art history. For two years afterward, I taught third grade in Baltimore as part of the Teach for America corps. It was during this time that I started researching architecture schools and was initially attracted to Minnesota's sustainable design culture. Upon visiting, I found the faculty very engaged with the students and interested in helping them achieve their goals.

Experience at the School of Architecture
I entered the School of Architecture through the 3+ Option path and liked that the program attracts students with a broad variety of academic backgrounds and work experiences.

As a third-year student, I am in the initial stages of planning my thesis project. I hope to focus my thesis on affordable housing options in Baltimore through the adaptive re-use of abandoned row houses. I would like to propose a strategy that does not merely lead to gentrification of the poorer districts.

Future aspirations
Looking ahead to my career, I would ideally be practicing in a firm that made ideals of sustainability -- social as well as environmental -- a primary concern. I'm convinced that issues of environmental sustainability can only be fully addressed in design if it also takes social responsibility into account and vice versa.

 

John Steingraeber

Background
After graduating with a B.A. in English in 1999 I worked for Outward Bound for five seasons leading month-long wilderness canoe expeditions with at-risk youth; I also led dogsledding trips in the winter. After life in the woods I moved to St. Paul and worked at an independent bookstore for two years. On a whim I began to take woodworking classes at a community college; two years later I had a degree in cabinetry, an apprenticeship with a wood sculptor, and a job at a high-end cabinet shop. Fine woodworking piqued my interest in architecture and design and I started the M.Arch program at the University of Minnesota.

Experience at the School of Architecture
My experience in the School of Architecture here has been tremendously positive. I especially appreciate the ongoing attempt to fuse traditional studio-style education with emerging digital practices and issues of sustainability. The study abroad options are excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the drawing course I took in Istanbul in May and June. The classes here are taught by a good balance of seasoned professors, new instructors, and practicing professionals. Finally, the new curriculum, with its re-thinking of the relationship between architectural pedagogy and professional practice, is something I am quite proud to be a part of.

Future aspirations
I hope to spend part of next summer in Denmark and Sweden doing research on year-round farming in northern climates. Ideally this research will inform my thesis, which I hope will integrate under utilized real estate on University Avenue (aka parking lots) in St. Paul, the urban farm movement, and the agricultural traditions of the local Hmong community. After graduation I would love to work abroad for a few years. Eventually I see myself back in the Twin Cities at a mid-sized firm working in the educational/cultural/artistic fields.

 

 

Xinle Wang

Background
My name is Xinle Wang. I was born in the northern coastal town of Dalian in China. I grew up on a drafting table in an architectural family and it came pretty natural to me. I went to the School of Architecture at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China when I was 14 after fast tracking my high school curriculum, and enrolled in the M.Arch Program at the University of Minnesota in 2005 with a graduate fellowship when I was 19. I graduated with an M.Arch degree in June 2007 and currently reside in Orlando, FL.

Experience at the School of Architecture
I honestly couldn't ask for a better experience for my two years at the School of Architecture. I chose the program both because of its academic reputation and the urban environment of the Twin Cities. The whole experience was both fulfilling and inspiring. When I first started, the cultural shock and distinctively different methodology from where I came from really challenged me to a new way of thinking about architecture: from how to design to what/why to design; from skill training to comprehensive thinking. I'm very grateful to be exposed to both ways of architectural education, because I think both are important elements a good architect needs to possess: being creative but also realistic.

The faculty and staff of the program were incredibly understanding and helpful when I struggled initially to fit into the American culture. Renee Cheng, Stephen Weeks, Terence Rafferty, and Andrzej Piotroski -- just to name a few -- both in and outside the academic realm, are some of the most inspiring and respectable people I've ever met.

Future aspirations
The nearest goal right now for me is to gain exposure to projects of various types, scales, and phases and hopefully become a registered architect in a few years. I just became a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and sustainability has been a real interest and responsibility for me to implement on my projects. In the long run, I would love to have my own firm someday, and focus on the institutional and commercial realm of architecture. I definitely want to contribute to my home country as an architect. If able, I would love to open a scholarship for School of Architecture students someday, so that more students like me can benefit from the program.

 

Erin Lilli

Background
I am working on an M.Arch and M.S. - Sustainable Design dual degree. I graduated from Texas A&M in 2003 and after unsuccessful attempts at finding a job in an architectural firm I worked for Keep Brazos Beautiful, a non-profit environmental education organization in Bryan, Texas. I also did a couple of independent study projects to add to my portfolio for applying for graduate school during this time.

The dual degree program and smooth acceptance process convinced me to choose the School of Architecture.

Experience at the School of Architecture
I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the University of Minnesota. I have been fortunate enough to work with two instructors whose focus is sustainable design and have worked as a teaching assistant in the Thermal course twice. My fellow students have been extremely passionate and very nice, sincere people. The studio became like my family.. The staff and and students are very caring and the instructors truly want you to do your best and be happy.

I was also on the construction management team for the Solar Decathlon and was on the student journal THERE. You have to be sure you balance out your life as best as possible and not over extend yourself and allow time for personal research and discovery.

Future aspirations
For the future I plan to be a licensed architect, and I would like to stay in academia and teach or perhaps work towards a Ph.D. and write. I have never seen myself in a large firm, however your chances to travel are much higher and you get to work on several different types of projects. Preferably I would desire a small, highly experimental firm that puts the environment first. I just want to be happy, creative, knowledgeable, and productive.

 

Shengyin Xu

Background
I grew up in Maryland in the same college town where I received my BS in Architecture at the University of Maryland. While working for a year at a small residential firm outside of Washington DC, I became LEED Accredited. At this point I decided to go to graduate school and found the School of Architecture interesting because of its new M.S. - Sustainable Design.

Experience at the School of Architecture
The School of Architecture was a great place to work on my graduate degree. Coming from a school with a very specific pedagogy of architecture, I felt a need to experience other viewpoints. The School of Architecture provided a chance to explore different ways of thinking about architecture. The range of knowledge, experience, and opinions from the different professors was particularly useful for expanding my interests in the field. The School itself was also very wiling to explore and listen to student's interest in newer areas, which really defined a different experience of an architecture school.

Future aspirations
I finished my M.Arch in May 2008 and then continued on my M.S. - Sustainable Design. I was the president of the Solar Decathlon student group at the University. This project inspired a great amount of interdisciplinary design work, and I hope to one day begin a firm that takes on that interdisciplinary approach to the practice of building. After the M.S. - Sustainable Design, I plan to pursue a Ph.D. studying the anthropological effect of built form and its role in transitional periods in various societies.

 

Craig Hutchison

Background
I started graduate school after spending three years away from academia, working both as a carpenter and as an architectural intern. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.A. in Architecture and another major in Environmental Studies, I went to live in Seattle to get a better idea of what the architectural field could offer, especially with regard to lessening our impact on the planet. I found that there were people who shared my values, but that several factors and professions contribute to a building's design, and that any influence I would have as an architect would require a solid knowledge base and skill for persuasion and communication. My wife and I decided that Minneapolis was the best place for us to live while I pursued a master's degree.

Experience at the School of Architecture
As I pursue my M.Arch at the University of Minnesota, I've had many opportunities to advance both my understanding of the science of building technology, as well as the art of design. Also, my courses have provided several opportunities to develop my communication skills; most classes and studios require collaborative work and cooperative working habits are important. I've performed case studies in day lighting, designed a high-density mixed use residential tower, proposed a design for the Solar Decathlon, participated in an eco-charette, and coordinated recycling efforts (all while collaborating with fellow students). These experiences helped boost my portfolio and contributed toward my acceptance into a fellowship program with an architecture firm that specializes in designing green health care facilities. These experiences have also helped me to become a LEED accredited professional this summer. I am returning for my final year and look forward to beginning my thesis project.

The School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota is a fast paced, but supportive environment. I've found ample opportunity for me to find my niche. Architecture school is demanding but students are very supportive of each other. Professors and the administration are remarkably approachable, and I'm on a first name basis with just about everyone from the janitorial staff to the dean. The administration values its students and actively seeks our continued feedback. Some of my classmates and I have provided our input during faculty searches and curriculum meetings. Though, I'd have to say my favorite and most frequently used resource at the school is the woodshop. It comes in handy whenever I need to laser-cut a model, experiment with assembly details, or just distract myself with a table saw.

Future aspirations
I hope to use my experience at the School of Architecture to develop into a professional who can provide inspiring places for people to live and work while making significant contributions to remedy our energy crisis. Architects and designers have a critical -- but largely unrecognized -- impact on people's daily lives and the collective footprint we leave. We help create the built environment where most people spend 90% of their day and dictate how most people will interact with the world around them. I'd like to see the day where we can live and prosper in our cities without eroding the natural systems that support us. I'd like to say at the end of my career that this came about not only because of moral decisions by individuals, but because I and my fellow designers made it the easy and economically viable thing to do.

 

 

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