Dedication and Perseverance Galore

Prof. Mason Andrews finally taking a minute away from her work.

Prof. Mason Andrews finally taking a minute away from her work.

Carmina Sanchez and Mason Andrews -- two amazing teachers!

Carmina Sanchez and Mason Andrews — two amazing architecture teachers!

I’m blessed to work with some incredibly talented and dedicated people at Hampton University.  Carmina Sanchez and Mason Andrews, with whom I teach architecture, are two of the hardest-working people I have ever known (and that, my friends, is really saying something!).

Carmina, Mason, and I are sincerely dedicated to the mission of our Historically Black College/University (HBCU).  We  work long hours to help our students master the craft of architecture.

And students in our program have achieved many amazing feats.  Much of their success is a result of professors like Mason and Carmina believing in them, working overtime again and again, introducing new ideas and new challenges, and opening doors for them along the way.

My colleagues’ work usually goes under-recognized, although Carmina has won a national-level teaching award from ACSA as well as one (that I nominated her for) from Hampton University.  She has also been a national officer of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and an international officer of the Association for Computer Aided Design (ACADIA). Carmina runs our thesis program and oversees our digital resources.  She’s at school all hours of the night and day.

Mason tends to work non-stop, too.  Prior to joining HU, she authored several books (one on Aldo Rossi). She also headed an architecture firm in NYC for many years before returning to her hometown in Norfolk. She felt the tug of family:  Her dad, after whom she is named, was once the mayor of Norfolk.  He led the effort to found the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS).  I believe he also delivered the first in-vitro baby in the USA and helped fund the lawsuit that ended racial segregation in Norfolk Public Schools.  He was a truly remarkable man and passed many exceptional qualities on to his daughter.

Carmina also had exceptional parents who were dedicated to helping others.  Mason and Carmina both learned from their parents how to serve others.  Not a day goes by that they don’t.

I first met Mason through the Marilyn and Ray Gindroz Foundation.  I had asked the Gindrozes to support our department’s travel program and they enthusiastically agreed — providing time and money and even re-writing their foundation’s bylaws to include HU.  Mason was the president of their board.  (To this day, the three of them travel with our students in the summer as part of the study abroad program that each HU student must complete in order to earn a degree in architecture.)

The year I met Mason, I asked her to consider teaching with us… although I never dreamed she’d accept.

But she did!

And she’s brought so many opportunities to our students.  She’s connected us to a number of prestigious scholarships and internship opportunities.  She sees possibilities others don’t and makes possibilities where none seem to exist. She typically teaches 1-2 more courses each semester than required, just because she wants students to have opportunities to learn a comprehensive range of subjects.

This usually includes writing for architects and a travel-prep class.  One year, it also included courses on construction and solar technologies.

In 2009, she took the lead in getting HU teamed up with Old Dominion University so we could enter the 2011 Solar Decathlon.  She co-led the team that constructed a net-zero house.  The group hauled their house to Washington DC and reassembled in a handful of days so it could compete (in 10 areas, while being toured by thousands of people every day, for 10 days).

Hundreds of universities all around the world apply for the opportunity, but only 20 are accepted each go around.  Our team garnered 14th place overall in its first attempt — which is truly remarkable given the level of resources other universities have.

The Decathlon happens every two years, and HU is competing again in 2013 under the direction of professor David Peronnet who was also instrumental in our 2011 success.

I am honored to work with Carmina, Mason, and David.

And, Dave and I are fortunate to count Mason among our dearest friends.  Dave and I can drop by the home of Mason, Bill (her husband), and Alston (their son) any time and find open arms, stimulating conversation, and often a creative meal to boot!

I’ve included photos from the pre-Christmas, drop-by dinner that Dave and I enjoyed with Mason.

Mason's home on Norfolk's gorgeous Mobray Arch.  (In 1998, I lived in an apartment in the yellow house to the left of the tutor house.)

Mason’s home on Norfolk’s gorgeous Mobray Arch. (In 1998, I lived in an apartment in the yellow house to the left of the tutor house. Mason, Bill, and Alston moved in just as we were moving out, and I didn’t get to know them until years later.)

Amazing Teachers

Shannon Chance, Ron Daniel, and Kim McGrath in Dublin last week.

Shannon Chance, Ron Daniel, and Kim McGrath in Dublin last week.

Amazing teachers transform lives. That’s what they did for me at least!

Last week, one of the very best teachers I’ve had in my life–Ron Daniel–visited Dublin with his colleagues from Webster University. Ron is the Director of Academics at Webster’s Geneva campus.

While they were here, we got together twice to reminisce and talk about higher ed.

I didn’t post about this topic right away, because some things are difficult to express into words. This morning, I’m allowing myself to just cover the tip of the iceberg of what I’d like to say….

The best teachers I’ve experienced in life actually just put a good framework in place in for me. Then, they stepped back and let me explore the issues.

The best learning experiences I’ve had in life have happened under the astute guidance of Ron as well as:

  • Wilma Brown (my fifth grade teacher)
  • Liz Lindon and Joyce Martin (my 4-H leaders)
  • Dave Dugas, Eugene Egger, and Bob Dyck (some easy going Virginia Tech professors)
  • Bridget Arvold (my high school geometry teacher)
  • the faculty of higher ed at the College of William and Mary

I am particularly indebted to Ron Daniel (my second year architecture professor and the person who gave me my first architecture teaching job) and Wilma Brown (my fifth grade teacher who gave me my first official teaching assistant role). These two used a Montessori / Bauhaus sort of approach.

They put relevant materials in front of me and let me do my thing.

Wind me up and I’m like the Energizer bunny!

Thankfully, Bridget Arvold was there at precisely the right moment in time as well. In ninth grade, I was struggling through geometry because I had initially been assigned a very poor teacher. Thankfully, I met Bridget and had the sense to change instructors. She made geometry seem fun and logical. Without her, I don’t think I’d have has a solid foundation for becoming an architect.

Teachers like these make learning fun. They gave me the challenge and sense of support needed for me to start learning to explore this big, wonderful world. I thank my lucky stars to have known them.

Is Fulbright for you?

Each year, the US government sends thousands of people abroad. These “Fulbrighters” do advanced research, teach (at the elementary, secondary, or college level), or study at the graduate level. Fulbrighers include:

  • teachers, professors, scholars
  • students and recent graduates
  • professionals (e.g., journalists, attorneys, artists)
  • administrators

Fulbright programs vary in length (2 weeks to 12 months) and location (there are 155 countries participating today). They also vary on the level of  funding they provide and the subject areas hosted by each country.  The core Fulbright Scholar Program, in which I am participating, “sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year. Grantees lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields.” My position is for a full academic year.

The overall point of the Fulbright program is to increase mutual understanding among nations and help build knowledge as well. It dates back to 1946 when Senator J. William Fulbright asserted that nations could avoid future wars by simply getting to know other.  Today’s Fulbright programs are sponsored by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. These programs bring foreign students and scholars to the USA in addition to sending US citizens abroad.

You can identify which programs fit you by visiting the Institute of International Education’s (IIE’s) Fulbright page.  As you dig down, you’ll be able to find out what countries host scholars in your areas of expertise and interest, how much funding they provide, and what skills they require.  Some positions are much more competitive than others — some require specific credentials while others are open to scholars in any discipline.  Some positions require that you can speak your host’s native language.

It’s worth your while to spend a little time today looking over the possibilities… it’s never too early to start planning your own Fulbright adventure!