The KU School of Architecture offers its students real-world experience.
Ask people to name an organization that gives young people the opportunity to see exotic parts of the world, train for a diverse number of possible careers and work as a team to build things that will give their recipients safety and stability.
There's a good chance people would name the Navy.
Then tell them the organization is in Kansas.
OK, so the Navy's ruled out.
In Lawrence, you don't have to step into white bell-bottoms and slap the title "ensign" in front of your name to travel the world, get practical job experience and help people. You just have to be a student in the KU School of Architecture.
The school's title is a bit of a misnomer, school dean John Gaunt said. Architecture is the largest sequence within the school, but it also has sequences in architectural engineering and urban planning.
The programs' handiwork lies scattered across east Kansas. Plans for development in Kansas City neighborhoods, as well as houses in Lawrence, stand as testaments to the accomplishments of KU architects.
Many of the Kansas City programs focus on the urban planning side of the school. The school operates community outreach programs from its Kansas City-based design studio. Student teams go into areas and offer plans for new improvements and designs. The program is mutually beneficial, Gaunt said. The students get valuable real-world experience. The residents of the community also receive something valuable.
"The community gets a vision of the future," he said.
The Lawrence community has gotten a look at another future -- the future of architecture -- thanks to work done in town by students. Architecture students take on one community building project every year. The tradition, begun several years ago when the University Daily Kansan held a campuswide contest for an innovative new newspaper stand design, has evolved. A year after the newspaper stand (which still sits outside the School of Architecture's Marvin Hall), students built an enclosed workspace behind Marvin Hall. During the past two years, they've been even more ambitious. They've built houses.
The first house, built in the spring of 1998, allowed students to participate in virtually every aspect of house construction, Gaunt said.
Students did everything from selecting the site to building to finalizing the sale. It was something no textbook could offer.
"The program is practical (for student learning) in that it doesn't simulate reality, it is reality," he said.
As exciting as Lawrence and Kansas City are, the School of Architecture wants its students to see more of the world. The school has exchange programs throughout Europe. The largest, oldest program is in Sienna, Italy.
Every architecture graduate student must spend a year in Sienna.
Undergraduate students also are encouraged to travel there, Gaunt said.
He believes international programs are essential because in an increasingly global marketplace, architects commonly work around the world.
The experience students get in other parts of the world, combined with the real-world experiences they get by building and planning in Lawrence and Kansas City, give them the foundation needed to succeed in the local and global architecture community.
"It really is a small world," he said.
-- Erik Petersen is a University of Missouri-Columbia student who worked as an intern this summer at the Journal-World.