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    Spring Break is the Panacea For All Types of Productivity

    By Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke
    Mar 22, '07 10:11 AM EST

    I had all these grand designs for Spring Break. They were certainly ambitious: in addition to finishing the final chapter on my thesis, I was planning on doing all this reading, etc. But I spent almost the whole time with my family, which made everything worthwhile. My life has been so insulated of late, and therefore writing anything interesting for this schoolblog has become increasingly difficult. Well, let me recalibrate that statement: I could write about many things, but finding something of substance has been hard mainly because I have spent the balance of the past two weeks in airplanes, behind the wheels of automobiles, as well as hunched over my laptop.

    However, these past two weeks have been some of the most significant ones I can remember. I began Spring Break in Ann Arbor, Michigan -- certainly one of the loveliest towns I've ever visited. I also spent time shuttling back between Michigan's Art and Architecture Building and Tappan Hall (where the University's History of Art department is situated). I have never been to a University that openly displays its intellectual and capital wealth the way the University of Michigan does. It is an amazing place. The students and faculty I met were all great ... and I had a very happy visit to the Midwest because of it.

    In case you have wandered outside the grad school threads, you may already have a sense of why I was at Michigan: I am considering moving to Ann Arbor during the summer to continue my schooling. So, like many of the readers on this thread, I too had to endure the peril and thrall of the admissions process. I've applied to, been accepted to, and must choose between PhD programs in architecture. I've been very happy with the results of this process. However, I have also lost a lot of sleep over it in the past couple of weeks. Choosing a PhD program is not only the most important academic decision I've ever had to make: it is also the hardest.

    There are many reasons for this, all which could be boiled down to the same issues one sees in the grad school threads: prestige, finances, location, mechanics. But it is the scope of the commitment that is a little daunting. I knew this from the start ... but now that I have to make a decision before April 15, things are very different indeed.

    I consider myself very lucky for having the options I do for continuing doctoral work. I am also lucky that I will be fully funded for at least four years, wherever I go. But this was never an easy process. Almost three years ago, when I decided that I was going to pursue a career in academia, I visited several different PhD programs. I met with professors, some well-known, others just starting their careers -- and I was met with the same response across the board. I was told that I was not qualified by virtue of the fact that I did not have an architecture background.

    As you can imagine, I was a little stunned. By that time, not only had I had successful careers in law and in the entertainment industry, but I was finishing a degree in urban planning, and also had taken classes with architecture faculty at UCLA. I certainly felt qualified in some shape or form. I was resolute knowing that I wanted to pursue a PhD. And so, I decided to take a 2-year "detour" and complete the MED degree at Yale School of Architecture. It is a small program within a small school. It doesn't have the presence that the design programs there have. After all, when someone thinks about the Yale School of Architecture, everyone thinks about the faculty, the visiting critics, that 5-axis robot (which is pretty cool, by the way), the studio travel, Perspecta, and whatnot. To the best of my knowledge, noone thinks about the 5+ students there who are engaged in serious historical/theoretical research. These people have been part of my normative academic universe for a little over a year now -- and though I have learned so much from them, so much so that I can only approximate their dedication and zeal to the writing of architecture history and theory, I only ask readers to keep their scanners wide open in the upcoming years. You will know who these people are.

    I guess I write this because I occasionally come across a post in the grad school threads where someone expresses disappointment for not having been accepted to the school of their choice. I find myself admiring the resolve that some posters have when faced with this circumstance. The responses range from the comical to the forlorn. Some will cut their losses and leave. Others will try again. Most will bide their time, improving their portfolios, work experiences, etc.

    I wish that back in the day, when I faced similar issues while applying to jobs, law school, business school, and even film school, I had a similar source of support -- much in the way that Archinect can be in these circumstances. I guess the most obvious answer for this is that online communities did not really exist back then (or if they did, they were weaker and less developed than they are now). Now, many years later, and on the brink of deciding between PhD programs ... I appreciate the manifold failures and disappointments I had to endure. There are more to come, sure. But somehow, I feel like I am on terra firma for the first time in years.



     
    • 11 Comments

    • Rice Milk

      1) You sound like a smarty pants...

      2) You studied at UCLA for a bit? And then you were at U of M for a week or so? Could you comment on either architecture programs...discuss similarities and differences? (perhaps you don't know much about U of M yet...that's ok)

      3) Ann Arbor is amazing in the summer. If you were impressed during your spring break, wait till summer...mmmmmm so nice...I took a summer off and lived at my sisters place about 2 years ago. Everyday I would ride my bike around town and find one (of many) parks to read and take naps in. I miss AA.

      Mar 22, 07 12:14 pm  · 
       · 
      brian buchalski

      wow...i wish i liked ann arbor that much.

      Mar 22, 07 12:41 pm  · 
       · 
      Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

      Rice Milk ... I was not an M.Arch student at UCLA, I was in the Urban Planning program. So my involvement with the architecture program was really with the Critical Studies faculty (Diane Favro, Bob Somol, Dana Cuff). As for Michigan, I was dealing with the history/theory folks, as well with professors in the History of Art department. I know that Tom Buresh heads the M.Arch program at Michigan, so his inclinations veer more towards the West Coast than the East (I think he did go to SciArc).

      Mar 22, 07 12:54 pm  · 
       · 

      great writing as usual SMcSS... i look forward to hearing about your decision... i'm currently researching Ph.D. programs in an effort to try to narrow down the schools that i'm going to apply to... i'm 90% sure that i'll be attempting that leap next year... i just can't seem to get academia out of my blood... i started the process by visiting the websites of every single architecture school in the US to come up with an accurate list of doctoral programs and i've since been working on whittling that list down to programs that make sense given my interests... so far UM is still making the cut, so i'm glad to hear your positive response to ann arbor as that was one of my concerns about UM...

      oh and of course congrats again... especially on the full funding...

      Mar 22, 07 1:58 pm  · 
       · 

      also, would you mind sharing a little bit about the funding?

      is it all from the schools? or is some of it outside sources?

      teaching/research assistantships? fellowships? tuition waivers?

      thanks.

      Mar 22, 07 1:59 pm  · 
       · 
      liberty bell

      (Archinect ) is the Panacea For All Types of Productivity

      Congrats on having several opportunities for the next leg of your journey, Smoke.

      Ann Arbor is indeed lovely in summer, as it is mostly empty of students. Then fall is amazingly gorgeous; in my experience only Cranbrook campus does autumn better than Ann Arbor. Plus everyone is full of that new semester optimism.

      But keep in mind that come February, Ann Arbor is difficult at best.

      Wherever you go you will obviously excel.

      Mar 22, 07 2:08 pm  · 
       · 
      JPachecoB

      Great to hear about your acceptance into several doctoral programs! I remember you telling me back at ucla that during one PhD interview they addressed you by the wrong latino surname???

      Things turned out better this time around...

      :) Congratulations.

      Mar 23, 07 9:50 am  · 
       · 
      satan

      show-off

      Mar 23, 07 11:46 pm  · 
       · 
      WonderK

      Enrique, this was very enjoyable to read, a very personal and positive expression of your current thought processes, so thank you for that. I really appreciate people like you especially because sometimes I feel a little bit guilty that I am not as concerned with the theoretical angles of architecture as so many others seem to be. I guess I am just a scientist at heart and I decided it was not my niche.....thus my current pursuit of sustainable design post-pro degrees.

      In any case, I'm glad to see that architectural theory is in good hands!

      Mar 24, 07 4:06 pm  · 
       · 
      brandt

      hello enrique_

      i appreciate your writeup. i have been to this site several times in the past, but never regularly and have never posted. this year i applied to m arch programs and was admitted to my top two choices - the decision was very difficult for me. i probably should have come to this site more instead of writing countless lists, matrices, prof's, friends... i finally came to a decision a few days ago - it was the med program at yale that actually sold me. so, it's good to hear your positive remarks - i hope to seek dual degrees (so, i think it would be nice to be part of the larger / well-known aspect of the small soa as well as the intimate experience of the med program you described). thanks again for your writeup and good luck on choosing the best for your next academic adventure. i'll be at the open house next week - maybe we'll cross paths.

      cheers.

      -brandt

      Apr 7, 07 12:39 pm  · 
       · 
      themachine

      THis is interesting Stuff! You should post this link to www.studentup.com ! Thanks for sharing. Cheers!

      Sep 11, 07 5:19 pm  · 
       · 

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