Studying Outside the Classroom in Chicago, San Francisco

Students sometimes have to see world-class achievements firsthand rather than in a book or online. So for many students in the School of Design + Construction, study tours to large cities are a requirement before graduating. “Every year, the students talk about how valuable these trips are for their education,” said Jaime Rice, the School’s academic program manager. “It’s so important for them to see in person the concepts they’re learning about in their coursework.”

This semester, for the third consecutive year, the School conducted study tours in Chicago and San Francisco. The Chicago trip was integrated with fourth year students from the architecture and landscape architecture programs, along with third year interior design students. “Chicago, for architecture and design, is among the best cities in the country,” Rice said.

The trip was a chance for Charlotte Muschamp, a native of New Zealand and architecture major, to see the eastern half of the U.S. for the first time. “It was an incredible trip,” said Muschamp, who is a high jumper and triple jumper on the WSU track team. “We got to see how the world really is, not just in a college classroom. It made what I’ve been learning more real.”

The students aren’t just tourists on these trips, they’re working on projects for a class and receive grades. For example, the San Francisco trip and follow-up activities comprise almost half of the overall grade for third year architecture students in their Architecture 309 course. The students worked in groups of two or three and gave presentations at public sites around the city. Each group was assigned a specific location before they left. “They had to be prepared,” Rice said. “Quite often, random people would come up and ask questions or take part in a presentation. That’s a great real-world experience for these students.”

In Chicago, the interdisciplinary nature of the group also had unexpected rewards, according to junior interior design major Kimberly Lawrence. “It was great to see and talk through other perspectives and get me out of my comfort zone,” Lawrence said.

Every student had to pay an extra course fee, which covered all expenses except meals. Since every design major is required to take a study tour during their education at WSU, the school works hard to reduce the financial hardships. “We try to keep costs as low as possible,” Rice said. “We stay in budget hotels, travel at off-peak times, that sort of thing. We’re very sensitive to costs.”

For the students, the real-world experience was worth the expense. “So much of the trip was exactly what we were studying,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t just go to have fun, we learned about what we love to do.”

Story by Scott Weybright, CAHNRS