Monday, November 11, 2013

Life of a Saluki Architecture Grad Student

By John Svast
Hello again readers! 
One of the very awesome things I get to do here at Southern Illinois University is I have the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for the senior urban design studio.  It is really fun to have design jam sessions with other students during their design process.  Some folks take off and don’t need much of a push… others get stuck on design decisions and need a bit of a nudge.  I think the seniors are doing a fantastic job and I look forward to seeing who stays at SIUC to continue their graduate work. One of the most glaring obstacles that sent me rifling down memory lane during my time in their class was the wonderfully heart attack inducing task of “group projects”.

What some architecture students think a group project is:

GROUP PROJECT (noun): Sitting back and letting others who care more do all the work for me.  Also known as Free Rider
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What other architecture students think a group project is:
GROUP PROJECT (noun):  A social obligation to do charity work for the lazy human paper weights I call my group members. 
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What I think a group project is now:
GROUP PROJECT (noun):  A great opportunity to work with others of multiple skill levels where I can learn from others ideas and skill levels and hone my skills by teaching others. 
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You really need to look at all you group projects in architecture as an opportunity to learn, even if that learning experience is an exercise in picking up the slack from “that guy”.  Remember…there is ALWAYS something to learn.

Here are a few pointers I have for those architecture students pulling their hair out during group projects:
      1. If no one steps up to be the group leader…. Then YOU be the group leader
I can’t stress this one enough…it is very important that there is some sort of hierarchy to the group.  And if you are the group leader… don’t be a jerk… life is tough enough… we don’t need another meat head.
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2.  Have a plan and a schedule that everyone can access and follow
“What are we doing?”…You are going to hear this often in a group project, it doesn’t mean those asking are stupid….  a project is usually a big undertaking and it takes a lot to figure it all out.  Work together in a group and make a plan….and stick to the plan.  What does Red Five say?
3.  Divvy out tasks to the strengths of the people in your group
Everyone in your group is really good at something.  Someone is really good at the technical stuff, someone is good at laying out a board, someone is great at collecting data, someone is great with design, and someone is a drafting wizard…. Everyone specializes in something.  Work to your strengths.  It will make the workflow go faster, and instead of 5 different styles hodgepodged together it will look like one cohesive project at the end.
4.  If you have a known “loose cannon” in the group, don’t give them a job that is critical to the completion of the project, BUT always make sure they have a job.
There is almost always “that guy/girl” in the group that has somehow slipped through the cracks who has figured out a way to get others to do their work for them.  I particularly have distaste for this sort of mouth breather, but there isn’t anything you can do.   What you also can’t do is give them a complete free ride…. You don’t know the situation for their sordid history.  Always give them a job and a chance to shine… you never know what might happen.
5.  Even if your whole world is crumbling, don’t sweat it.  The professor is watching.
There may be a possibility that the group dynamic is so poor that you want to conjure a doom fist from the lower levels of hell to smite your enemies/group members.  Don’t worry, just do your best and work really hard… the professor knows who is working and who isn’t.  Your grade won’t be lowered into pit to burn for all eternity.

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