Why did you choose ISoA to study architecture?
Growing up, my family started taking me to Illini sporting events as soon as I could walk. I knew all along for undergraduate studies I wanted to come to Illinois, and if I could have only applied one place, it would have been U of I. I figured out architecture was what I wanted to do through my love of math and science, along with curiosity of drawing. For graduate studies, I looked at several different options, but was drawn back to Illinois because of the flexibility the curriculum provided me. Since the University of Illinois is a research-based institution, I knew I would also get the chance to explore my interests and learn from some of the best faculty in the world.
"It is hard to even describe the amount of personal and professional growth I have gained through the University of Illinois" - Chris Isenhower
Are you glad that you did?
It is hard to even describe the amount of personal and professional growth I have gained through the University of Illinois. I have been able to take advantage of the opportunities both within the department, and outside the department on the campus level. In undergrad, I was heavily involved in Student Alumni Ambassadors, which coordinates large-scale campus events like Illinois Sights and Sounds, iHelp, and Homecoming, among others. Through this involvement, more opportunities to get involved came along, and I was able to build a professional development skill-set alongside what I was learning in the classroom. These various experiences led to internships, connections, and gave me a unique perspective coming back to studio.
Is there a particular area/topic of architecture that you’re interested in?
My interests lie at architecture’s intersection with sport and tourism. With the flexibility of the graduate program at Illinois, I have been able to take elective courses in the highly-ranked Recreation, Sport and Tourism (RST) department, allowing me to find the fuse between the two, and prepare myself for a career within the sport and tourism design industry. I am starting research this year with a professor within RST looking at how the built environment effects outcomes of sport for development and peace programs in the Pacific Islands. These community sport and educational programs play a major role in villages across the islands, and with improved insight into how the built environment effects these outcomes, they may be able to improve programming reach and further drive impactful success.
"The professors I have had, as well as the technicality of the coursework have prepared me for a career in architecture" - Chris Isenhower
What did you do this past summer?
This past summer I worked at Populous in Denver, Colorado as a Student Intern in their Events Group. Populous is a global architecture and design firm that designs the places where people love to be together, like Yankee Stadium, the London Olympics, and the Super Bowl. Their events group focuses on event bids, overlay design, masterplanning, event operations, signage and wayfinding, and accreditation. I was able to partake in projects for some of the largest professional leagues, as well as international federations of sport. I am excited to be returning to the firm upon graduation with a full-time position.
(Photo: Populous site visit to the new Colorado State University Football Stadium)
Do you feel like ISoA is preparing you for a career in architecture?
Yes, I feel the professors I have had, as well as the technicality of the coursework have prepared me for a career in architecture. While in school, it may seem overwhelming at times, but the information you are taught is extremely valuable for practicing in the profession. The flexibility to take elective coursework in other world-renowned departments helps give you a broad perspective that you may not get elsewhere.
If you could change one thing about your architecture education, what would it be?
Looking back, I think a computer science class regarding programming and coding would have been useful as technology continues to change in the industry. I also think more experiential learning programs with firms would be beneficial to a student’s architecture education. I have been fortunate to have many different internship experiences with firms of different sizes, industries, and cities. However, if that could be integrated into the program as semester-long design research projects with firms across the US, the firms and students would both benefit. It might also help students determine which area of architecture they like the most. The architecture student organizations do a great job of setting up firm visits, and a design research initiative could be the next step to continue to set Illinois apart from other schools.
What part of the country/world would you like to work once you graduate?
I have interned in St. Louis, Cleveland, Denver, and will be moving to Kansas City upon graduation for a rotation in the Americas Headquarters of Populous. I think a variance of experiences in different places helps a student grow and travel to places they may not have thought about otherwise. I am excited to see where my work takes me, and would enjoy an opportunity to work internationally on a large event or project if the opportunity arises.
"It is never too early to start learning software. The industry continues to change with technology, and the more you know sets you apart from others seeking that same job you might be applying to" - Chris Isenhower
What one piece of advice would you give to a current freshman architecture student? What do you wish you knew that you know now?
Thinking back to my freshman year, I am amazed at how far I have come through determination and hard work. There are definitely many things I would advise to younger students who are just starting their architectural education, but there is one that stands out. I would say that it is never too early to start learning software. The industry continues to change with technology, and the more you know sets you apart from others seeking that same job you might be applying to.
What one thing would you recommend that would improve the life of being a student in the school of architecture?
Get involved both inside and outside of the architecture school!!! Some of my best memories from architecture school are from late nights at studio, but my others are all from the RSOs I was a part of, and the experiences they brought me. They help you establish time management skills and help you establish your interests outside of architecture, which help you become a more well-rounded person. There is also a thrill you get from staying up most of the night building balloon arches for homecoming, decorating the quad at 6am, and then having to go to studio and try to spread Illini spirit to all of your sleep-deprived classmates.
(Photo: Illinois Homecoming Parade, 2014)
Did you have a favorite professor from a previous semester? Who was it and why?
Within the architecture department, I had Professor Chasco my senior year for Capstone Studio. He made me think about design in ways I never had thought about before. I had never had a professor so invested in us as students, and wanting to know what we do outside the classroom and our interests. I remember one time he came into studio on a Saturday and asked me why I wasn’t at the football game! There is more to the college experience besides the classroom, and he helped remind us of that. He was a big reason I chose to stay at Illinois for graduate studies, after truly seeing what the program could offer me and the faculty I could be learning from in the graduate program.
Anything else you’d like us to know about you?
At Illinois, I have been able to have a broad range of experiences inside and outside the classroom. In 2015, I traveled the country researching sports venues through the Allerton American Traveling Scholarship, and have been able to visit various other cities through studios, including a trip to New York City last fall with Professor Kevin Erickson. I served as President of Student Alumni Ambassadors, as well as a year-long term as the Urbana Student Representative on the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. I was a selected to the Senior 100 Honorary in 2016, and was named the CASE ASAP Outstanding Student Leader for the Great Lakes Region in 2015. My senior year, I served as a Fred H. Turner Fellow in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, and am a member of the Gargoyle Architecture Honor Society. I was previously a discussion section leader for FAA 101, and currently serve as a Teaching Assistant for Professor Randy Deutsch in Architecture 231. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies with High Honors from Illinois in May of 2016, and I am currently a Master of Architecture Candidate, with an expected graduation of May 2018.