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Stuckeman School architecture student finds community through getting involved

Meghan Davis, who just finished her fourth year in the architecture program, found her community at Penn State by getting involved in student organizations.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — From leading student organizations to highlighting the advantages of being a student within the College of Arts and Architecture, Stuckeman School architecture student Meghan Davis has made sure no time is wasted during her time at Penn State.

A native of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Davis just completed her fourth year in the bachelor of architecture program in the Stuckeman School; however, her road to success in Happy Valley had an unusual start.

Davis started her collegiate studies at the University of Cincinnati but soon realized she needed something more; she missed being close to her family and realized how important it was to her to be closer to home. While she was considering architecture programs in her home state, she said she visited Penn State and while touring the Stuckeman School facilities, thought to herself, ‘This feels like this is where I belong.” And the rest is history.

In October 2019, Stuckeman School architecture students traveled to Brooklyn for the annual National Organization of Minority Architects National Conference and Student Design Competition where they met some Penn State alumni.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Davis bases her interest in architecture off her mutual interests in geometry and art. She likes how she’s able to combine the two in a creative way. She was also inspired by someone close to her.

“My grandfather gave me a book on architecture when I was young because he saw something of me in it,” Davis said. “I had no idea what architecture even was but when I read it, I thought, ‘This is me. This is what I want to do,’ and I’ve had my mind set on it ever since.”

Davis said she is most passionate about being able to change the world with her architecture; she’s most excited to see the first building she designs being built.

She credits her success in her college career to the challenges she faces as a student in the Stuckeman School. As an architecture student, she’s required to take 6-credit courses as well as completing studio work and taking other core classes. She’s found success in being able to find the balance between the three.

Beside taking her required courses and participating in studio, Davis is also involved in several organizations where she maintains leadership positions.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, Davis served as the president of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) at Penn State, the vice president of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS), a member of Alpha Rho Chi, a professional fraternity for architecture and allied arts, and an Arts Ambassador for new Penn State students.

Members of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students gathered for a potluck dinner in the Stuckeman Family Building the week before Thanksgiving 2019 to celebrate the friendships made. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

According to Davis, clubs like Alpha Ro Chi and AIAS are perfect opportunities for students to get involved in a field they plan on being in after they graduate from Penn State.

“AIAS is definitely something you want to be a part of if you’re considering being an architect someday,” Davis said. “We bring in firms to give lectures and they also do portfolio and resume reviews with us. We have a mentor program with alumni so that people who have been in the program can help you. There are a lot of benefits of being involved in this organization.” 

Similar to AIAS, she joined Alpha Ro Chi because she was looking to find a community within her concentration. In the professional fraternity, she felt she was able to establish a family-like relationship with her peers.

“Alpha Rho Chi is for architecture and allied arts students so there’s a bunch of people from different majors that are involved,” Davis said. “For example, my handwriting is not as strong as my computer skills, so the art majors are always able to help me. It’s nice to make connections with people outside of Stuckeman.”

As a part of Arts Ambassadors, she gets to showcase the benefits of being in the Stuckeman School to students who are interested in architecture, landscape architecture, or graphic design. She enjoys giving potential students tours of the Stuckeman Family Building and helping them understand the architecture program from her perspective.

“I feel very rewarded for doing all the things I’m doing,” Davis said. “I love organizing things and being able to help people, so it just sort of happened. I like to take any opportunities that come my way; I have a habit of saying yes to everything.”

Finding a balance in the past has proven difficult for Davis because she sees so many opportunities that she wants to take advantage of while at Penn State, she said. While there still are many things she would like to accomplish before she graduates, for now she is proud of herself for being able to find her place in the Stuckeman School.

The National Organization of Minority Architecture Students at Penn State meets on a bi-weekly basis to discuss upcoming events, engagement opportunities, and to check-in with each other. The club continued meeting virtually when Penn State moved to remote instruction in March.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

“I know I’m getting the most out of my experience in college because of everything I’m involved in and everything I’m learning through what I’m doing,” Davis said. “Last year, I wasn’t really involved in much of anything and I was really bored. I was looking for something, and I found it in all of the groups I am now involved with on campus.”

As travel restrictions and stay at home orders went into effect across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, Penn State switched to remote learning, which has been challenging for in-residence students, said Davis.

“Taking classes online requires more self-motivation than when you’re actually physically at school,” Davis said. “There’s no going places to focus on my work, I’m just always in my room.”

Since most studio classes are based on projects and making models, moving classes online, has proved difficult, but not impossible. For review week in late April, students were able to upload their designs on a website and virtually present to jurors that critiqued their work by drawing on top of their original drawings.

According to Davis, the Stuckeman School faculty and staff has been there for students that have needed help during the transition to remote learning. One of Davis’ professors offered to take pictures of all their students' work that they left behind in the Stuckeman Family Building studios. The school has also been offering remote computer access so students can still use the software they need while working at home.

“There are some programs on the computers there that students don’t have on their laptops at home, but they can now use them. It’s really generous,” Davis said.

Davis said she populated her work space at home with items she typically has in her workspace in studio. She added ambient features, like a Himalayan salt rock lamp and a succulent terrarium, "to establish a balance."  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Since her studio was a smaller class this spring, Davis said that it started to feel like she had a little family she could catch up with over Zoom. She looked forward to meeting and checking in on each other. Mostly, Davis is adjusting to life at home in this time of uncertainty.

“I’ve been going on runs around my neighborhood because it’s a good way to get fresh air and clear my mind,” Davis said. “For me, it’s a really great way to blow off some steam because right now is a really stressful time. It doesn’t seem like it should be because all we have to do is stay home, but all of the unknowns are incredibly stressful.”

To future architecture students, Davis encourages involvement at Penn State. As much as a professional organization will help, she also suggests getting involved in things outside of your major.

“Finding that extra thing on the side that lets you debrief from studio and your courses is really important,” Davis said. “It’s all about finding your fit.”

Reflecting on her years at Penn State, she feels she has taken advantage of everything that has come her way. And she hopes to continue to do so no matter what will happen in a world after the pandemic. Even if classes are conducted online, she is excited for what’s to come.

“The connections I’ve made with people here have been amazing,” Davis said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a person and a leader because of all the positions I’ve held.”

Last Updated May 20, 2020