Author: Jason McGee, Instructor, Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical School
“The curriculum demands that they are taught a technical proficiency in architecture. I make a conscious effort to supplement this by asking the students to consider their social responsibility as designers.”
Teaching [is] Stewardship
Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care”. As the instructor of the Architecture and Construction Management Program, I am entrusted to guide tomorrow’s architects and designers. My first responsibility is to the students, followed by the parents, school district, alumni, and the architectural community.
I believe the notion of ownership goes hand-in-hand with that of stewardship. I am not the owner of my program as a piece of property. However, I have full ownership of the results, good or bad, while the program is entrusted to my care. This is a task both undeniably daunting and unimaginably rewarding.
The students entering the program are already interested in creating the spaces they inhabit. The curriculum demands that they are taught a technical proficiency in architecture. I make a conscious effort to supplement this by asking the students to consider their social responsibility as designers. The best example of this is reflected in the students’ senior projects; like a thesis, they research and design a final project of their choosing.
A project I am particularly proud to share that exhibits social responsibility was designed by Kendra Soler. She wanted her senior project to be on the site of Eastland mall, a location near her home that she witnessed degrade over time. Her first instinct was: “I’ll bring back the mall” but she quickly realized that the area didn’t need a mall at all. It needed resources to empower the disenfranchised members of the community. She posited that domestic violence and single-mother households were one of the most devastating problems facing the community. Her final proposal was a women’s shelter that became a neighborhood-wide intervention to begin the healing process.
While the final project was powerful and successful, the most rewarding days occurred during the design process. On several occasions I overheard Kendra and her classmates passionately discussing design and the issues they were addressing in their projects. It’s gratifying to hear these conversations happen spontaneously and without my participation.
Due to the generous support from the community, I feel a reciprocal obligation to the profession to curate creative, socially aware, young professionals. We will soon entrust my students to carefully and responsibly guide the profession of architecture. From where I stand, the future looks bright.