For a recent community stewardship activity, Michelle Boyce, Architectural Technician II in Larson Design Group (LDG)’s Williamsport office, went back to the community that was instrumental in bringing her to LDG: her alma mater, Pennsylvania College of Technology. Michelle spent an afternoon serving as a guest juror for third-year students presenting their final projects in Dorothy Gerring’s Sustainable Community Planning and Design class.
“When I was at Penn College, I had the chance to tour the LDG building and participate in mock interviews and meet the professionals that I aspired to be, and that was because of the close relationship between the two,” said Michelle, who graduated from PCT in 2015. “That relationship was instrumental in me getting an internship here and then being hired full-time. I wanted to give back to Penn College for everything that they gave me.”
Working in groups, students selected a community site from anywhere in America that was in need of improvement or development – neighborhoods with vacant houses, unused factory or warehouse spaces, which also lacked sidewalks and amenities like bike paths or landscaping. Students were asked to make these areas more walkable and bicycle-and pedestrian-friendly, as well as increase their visual appeal.
Michelle and Mrs. Gerring asked the students questions about their projects, such as how they approached the initial design and what they kept in the site versus what they changed and why. The jurors also gave them feedback about aspects of the project – whether they had considered the right landscaping for a certain climate and its visual appeal, for example – and, if necessary, how to better explain their thought process in the future when they could be asked to give presentations in a professional setting.
The projects being presented were the final versions, but Michelle appreciated the opportunity to “come in blind” and “give the students a chance for their presentation skills to shine,” rather than solely focusing on the content of the project itself. She said that she tried to emphasize constructive criticism.
“Getting lots of a bad reviews or criticisms can be discouraging to students, especially because they’re not in a professional environment yet and they might not be aware of exactly what’s expected of them,” she said. “I tried to balance the bad with the good.”
LDG is an emerging national surveying, architecture and engineering firm that promotes employee stewardship in their communities as one of its core values. Each year, employees are provided stewardship time that they can use for activities meant to improve and engage with the communities in which they live and work.