Graduating in the face of a Pandemic

On Friday, May 8th at 5:30 pm, I joined 80+ friends, family, faculty, area professionals, and graduates for SDSU DoArch’s 2020 Graduation Ceremony via zoom. There was an informal sense as Brian Rex, Department Head and Associate Professor, pointed out a few people reclining as they watched.

Brian spoke to the uncertainty of the times and the difficulties he faced as a professor right now. He followed by saying that graduates received the preparation at SDSU to be able to make work for themselves not just find jobs in uneasy economic times. After the introduction Jessica Jessica Garcia Fritz, assistant professor, initiated eligible students to the SDSU chapter of Tau Sigma Delta, an elite architecture fraternity. Tom Hurlbert, AIA SD President, congratulated graduates and challenged them to redefine what architecture is. “We’re waiting for you,” he said referring to professionals in South Dakota. Karianna Larson, President of SDSU’s chapter of AIAS, expressed gratitude for opportunities to connect and relationships made. She was grateful to have developed personally and professionally through the organization, and she especially enjoyed the firm crawl in Sioux Falls hosted by several firms in the area.

Next, specific faculty were recognized. Federico Garcia Lammers was recognized for his promotion to Associate Professor (a tenured position). Robert Arlt was recognized for faculty excellence for his leadership with the Passive House project and comprehensive studio. Michelle Klobassa announced the TSP scholarship recipients: Nathaniel Krueger, Dakota Matthews Schmidt, and Stuart Plimpton. Brian Rex noted the contributions to the program made by area architecture firms, specifically, TSP, Koch Hazard, Arch Inc, and Perspective. Drew Doyle was awarded the AIA Henry Adams Modal award.

The M.Arch and BFA graduates were recognized along with an image of one of their projects from their studies at SDSU. The graduates briefly described their plans for the near and distant future. One thing I’d like to note is the overwhelming amount of talent displayed. Ali Rausch & Drew Doyle (x2) received graduate awards. Nate Krueger, Joe Kenny, Mahmoud Sadek, Karianna Larson, and Rebecca Woytassek received undergraduate awards. Nate Krueger & Joe Kenny reminisced in their validictory talk referencing several inside jokes, and told tales of comradery amongst the studio. To paraphrase Drew Dale’s talk, architecture is a difficult discipline, but a rewarding challenge. Drew tried to hold back tears as he thanked faculty, family, and his girlfriend for their support and encouragement during his academic pursuits.

I remember the anxious anticipation mixed with relief of my graduation back in 2012, but I won’t pretend to imagine what it must be like to graduate during a crisis like COVID-19. I would like to close with an open letter to the architecture graduates from SDSU that I think applies in a broader sense to all graduates.

Dear Graduate, 

I know these are uncertain times. Keep your head up 
and remember why you decided to pursue the career and 
course of study you did. Some words of advice as you 
transition to where life takes you next: 

Be open minded, don't block yourself into societal 
norms or what you think your life should be in five 
years. Instead, take each day as it comes. Learn from 
mistakes and take time to celebrate your successes. 
Don't let opportunities pass you by because you're 
afraid of failure. Don't regret the chances you didn't 
take later in life. 

Be patient. The day will come when you look back and 
everything is different than it was before. Change 
gradually shifts your perspective. It's easy to grow 
complacent and even easier to waste time waiting for 
the weekend, for summer, and to grow up. Before you 
know it, you will be older and wonder what you did for 
the last ten years.

Be kind. To others and to yourself. Grace is necessary 
to grow from mistakes. Also, be grateful. Recognize the 
people and events that made the life you have possible. 
Tell those people what they mean to you, and the 
difference they made in your journey. Tell those you 
love what they mean to you.

Be constant in your pursuit of excellence. Don't settle 
for good enough. Find areas you excel in and identify 
what brings you joy. Do these things and learn how to 
do them even better. Refine your craft.

Finally, be proud. You have overcome challenges and 
done things you never imagined were possible. Know that 
you did the best you could with what you had, and be 
confident that you will do even better next time.

Congratulations on all you've accomplished and best of 
luck in your future pursuits!

I wish you nothing but the best, 

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