MSU students learn challenges, rewards of collaboration through interdisciplinary design competition

Students look on as Olivia Baker presents her team’s Spirit Hill Farm barn renovation project to MSU alumni Bob and Sheryl Bowen.
Olivia A. Baker, an MSU senior architecture major from Jackson, presents her second place-winning group’s Spirit Hill Farm barn renovation project to MSU alumni Bob and Sheryl Bowen. (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Contact: Christie McNeal

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A renovation project for a structure on Spirit Hill Farm in Holly Springs has given student teams in Mississippi State’s College of Architecture, Art and Design a chance to hone their collaborative and competitive skills for the past six weeks.

The annual Brasfield and Gorrie Student Design Competition at MSU has seen 110 architecture, art/graphic design, building construction science and interior design seniors teaming up to develop proposals for a barn renovation on the north central Mississippi farm, which was donated by MSU alumni and owners Bob and Sheryl Bowen. Read more about the gift at

Brasfield and Gorrie General Contractors, one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms based in Birmingham, Alabama, has sponsored the annual event for the past nine years.

Kerry McElroy stoops near and points at a display board for her team’s Spirit Hill Farm barn renovation project.
Kerry E. McElroy, an MSU senior architecture major from Gibson, presents her team’s second place-winning project for the annual Brasfield and Gorrie Student Design Competition. (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

“Through the generous support of Brasfield and Gorrie, students in all four programs in our college are challenged to come up with viable design and construction solutions for a real-world client,” said Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design Angi Elsea Bourgeois. “By working in teams, they truly learn the values of collaboration such as compromise, leadership and communication while also developing a successful outcome for the specific needs of Spirit Hill Farm and the Bowen family.”

The teams each worked to craft a cohesive design that reuses the existing barn to create housing for Mississippi State students conducting research at the farm. They were challenged to integrate their design with the existing aesthetic of other structures on the farm and use existing furniture pieces throughout the space. Other project requirements were branding, material selection, the application of building codes, zoning, the Americans with Disabilities Act, egress, creation of a construction budget and schedule, Leadership in Energy Environmental Design (LEED) and WELL Building Certification.

The winning teams were selected following informal presentations to the Bowens, Brasfield and Gorrie representatives, and college administrators. The top three projects—first place and a tie for second place—were chosen based on evidence of collaborative efforts, meeting the clients’ needs and overall project completion. 

The first-place group credited its success to working well together as a team.

First-place winners from the annual Brasfield and Gorrie Student Design Competition at MSU
Pictured are students in the first place-winning group from the MSU College of Architecture, Art and Design’s recent Brasfield and Gorrie Student Design Competition. Group members were tasked with developing a proposal for the renovation of a barn for Spirit Hill Farm, which was bequeathed to the university by alumni Bob and Sheryl Bowen of Holly Springs. From left to right are Brianna Brown of Hernando; Chip Goza of Flora; Tori Thompson of Spring Hill, Tennessee; Ryeley Jacobs of Ocean Springs; Malik Henley of Iuka; Emily Purner of Birmingham, Alabama; Megan Henry of Aberdeen; Sheryl and Bob Bowen; Ashtyn Carpenter of Vaiden; Madison Holbrook of Steens; Danielle Leclercq of Picayune; and Caleb Shaw of Belzoni. (Submitted photo/by John Poros)

“From the beginning of this project, I quickly realized that the individuals on my team were very talented, and the final product was going to be something truly special,” said building construction science major Ryeley Jacobs of Ocean Springs. “After meeting with the Bowens, we decided to go with a design that stayed true to the original aesthetic, while making it accommodating and comfortable to the individuals who will be enjoying the space for years to come. I believe our design achieved everything we had imagined and so much more.”

Honorees included (by hometown):


ABERDEEN—Megan M. Henry, interior design

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama—Emily A. Purner, interior design

BELZONI—Caleb Q. Shaw, architecture

FLORA—Gregory R. “Chip” Goza, building construction science

HERNANDO—Brianna M. Brown, architecture

IUKA—Malik D. Henley, art/graphic design

OCEAN SPRINGS—Ryeley K. Jacobs, building construction science

PICAYUNE—Danielle M. Leclercq, architecture

SPRING HILL, Tennessee—Victoria A. “Tori” Thompson, building construction science

STEENS—Madison C. Holbrook, architecture         

VAIDEN—Ashtyn R. Carpenter, interior design


FLORA—Cassidy H. Jones, interior design

GIBSON—Kerry E. McElroy, architecture

GRENADA—Melissa L. Sones, interior design

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama—Shelby C. Jaco, architecture

KILN—Owen H. McCallum, building construction science

MADISON—Ashley E. Casteel, architecture; Joshua T. Jacobs, building construction science; Case L. Woodward, building construction science

OLIVE BRANCH—Demarques T. Nevels, art/graphic design

SOUTHAVEN—Mariah J. Green, architecture

STARKVILLE—Savannah L. Crew, interior design


BILOXI—Tyler E. Roch, building construction science

FLORENCE—Lilah S. Smith, art/graphic design

HATTIESBURG—William H. McMahon, interior design

HOOVER, Alabama—Jackson S. Warren, building construction science

JACKSON—Olivia A. Baker, architecture

MADISON—Casey L. Pennebaker, building construction science

MERIDIAN—Isaac L. Johnson, architecture

RIDGELAND—Pablo Vargas, architecture

STARKVILLE—Felipe M. Olvera, architecture

VICKSBURG—Olivia T. Frazier, interior design

WEST POINT—Steven C. Dragoo, building construction science

MSU faculty overseeing the competition included Lecturer of Art/Graphic Design Eric Abbott, Associate Professor of Architecture Alexis Gregory, Associate Professor of Building Construction Science Michele Herrmann, Associate Professor of Interior Design Lyndsey Miller, Professor of Architecture John Poros, and Assistant Professor of Building Construction Science Alireza Shojaei.

Learn more about MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design and its academic programs at and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @CAADatMSU.

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