STARKVILLE, Miss.--Twelve School of Architecture majors at Mississippi State are back in their university classes after spending the fall semester at the Washington Alexandria Architecture Center in Alexandria, Va.
Since 1985, the exchange program has included a group of fourth-year MSU design studio students. WAAC is part of a worldwide consortium of architecture programs involved in Virginia Tech University's Washington exchange.
"For the past 20 years, we've sent three to four students," said school director Michael Berk. Because each student must apply and be accepted, the challenge "is competitive," he emphasized.
The Virginia courses count toward MSU curriculum requirements and, as a result, participating students stay on track toward graduation with the university's five-year architecture degree program, Berk said.
Haley Whiteman of Biloxi said the WAAC studios operate similarly to those at MSU, though different projects with similar themes were offered.
MSU students were joined during the fall with undergraduate and graduate students from VT's Blacksburg campus. With them were other fourth-year students from California Polytechnic and Louisiana state universities, the Bauhaus in Germany and Universidad de Desarrollo in Chile.
"This is an incredible opportunity for our students to get to experience an urban environment with outstanding resources such as galleries, museums and great buildings," said Berk. "It's a rich urban fabric where they can meet faculty and students form other schools and around the world."
Students lived in an historic building in downtown Alexandria. The location was close to a train stop, which enabled Whiteman and her classmates to easily attend the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, visit the grave of John F. Kennedy on the anniversary of his assassination and even catch a glimpse of a Leonardo Da Vinci sketchbook at a museum. Some also travelled to New York City.
"Living in Alexandria, just a couple of Metro stops away from Washington, was one of the best highlights of being at WAAC and opened many doors," Whiteman said.
Classmate John Taylor Schaffhauser of Canton agreed. Living in the metro area and meeting a diverse range of people was inspirational, he said.
"Engaging with other architecture students and faculty from around the world, along with living in an incredibly rich urban setting, has brought my understanding of architecture and culture to a level that is extremely personal and only learned through engaging experience," Schaffhauser added.
For more about Mississippi's only academic program in architecture, see http://caad.msstate.edu.
Information about MSU may be viewed at www.msstate.edu.