Congratulations to our 2021 graduates! Read reflections from our 2020-2021 AF/McAslan Fellow, Melissa Smith.

Melissa SmithI have struggled to write this story because it has been difficult to come to terms with the apparent end of my formal education. Although there are many adventures to be had, I cannot help but think back on everything the University of Kansas has given me. While I’m eager for my next journey, I think about my time at KU and worry about what I may lose as I move forward to gain new and enriching experiences.

I have been a student for the vast majority of my life. It has been a central aspect of my identity. Not only have I been a student, but I like to think I’ve been a pretty great one. Aside from high grades, I’ve gone above and beyond to win awards, do unexpected and creative things, complete research publications, lead clubs. earn certifications, and excel in internships. With this chapter closing, I’ve asked myself what could possibly replace this obnoxiously studious aspect of my personality. Of course, I intend to excel in the workplace as well, as I move to New Orleans to begin my architectural career with LRK, but I’m not sure anything could truly fill the void left by formal education. Now that I have some free time, though, as the late nights in studio end, I hope to spend it enriching my life in other ways. I’d love to rekindle my love for dance by taking some classes, I hope to continue advancing my skills in the kitchen, I intend to satisfy my need for world travel and cultural exchange, I can spend time reading, drawing, and painting, and most importantly I have more time to spend with the people I love. This brings me to the other difficult part of university life wrapping up and moving to a new city.

KU has not only offered me incredible educational opportunities – research, world travel, excellent professors, certification programs, extracurriculars, and the like – but it has been my home for five years in every sense of the word, and I am not necessarily looking forward to leaving. KU is where I met my best friends, worked under wonderful mentors, and made life-changing memories. While I have hope for the future and know I will experience more transformative events before it’s all said and done, I still fear losing the relationships and memories I have spent so long building. I hope that I can keep the friendships and memories I have while taking advantage of every new opportunity.

Now that I’ve secured my Master’s in Architecture from the University of Kansas, I’ll be working with LRK in New Orleans to design WELL-certified buildings and communities, and I look forward to putting my Health & Wellness and Historic Preservation certificates to work. I hope to use my studies in Copenhagen and elsewhere around the world to design more sustainably and beautifully. I’m eager to continue working toward licensure and hopefully earn some other certifications along the way, such as WELL and LEED. I’m also eager to wrap up my work with the Architects Foundation / John McAslan + Partners Fellowship this summer in Edinburgh, Scotland and to see how my work on the joint HDR / University of Kansas / University of Nebraska Lincoln publication “Rural Resolve: Imaging the Future Health and Wellbeing of Small Communities” may affect rural healthcare and design going forward.

Who’s to say where I may be in a year, or five years, or ten? But I’m excited to see where this next path takes me as I continue to embrace change and take advantage of opportunities, even if it means letting go of certain things I once held dear. So, here’s to the future and here’s to the class of 2021; we did it!