USC Architecture Produces Large Crop of Discovery and Global Scholars

School News

USC Architecture Produces Large Crop of Discovery and Global Scholars

September 22, 2014

When USC School of Architecture senior Kevin Reinhardt received a $10,000 Discovery Scholar Award last spring and classmate Anish Tilak received a $10,000 Global Scholar Award, they were carrying on a tradition that began when the two prizes were established at USC in 2008. From then to now, 20 USC Architecture students have earned the highly competitive $10,000 prizes — at least one Discovery and Global Scholar each year.


Although more than 150 seniors are named to the scholar groups each spring, only 20 cash prizes are awarded annually — 10 for each program.


Both programs were established by then-provost and now USC President C. L. Max Nikias to recognize exemplary students and support them in graduate study, creative endeavors and international travel. After graduation, they have five years to use the award.


Associate Professor Alice Kimm, immediate past director of USC Architecture’s undergraduate programs, said architecture students do well in the competitions “because they exhibit a winning combination of strong ideas backed up by innovative narratives that are both graphic as well as text-based. So the best students from Architecture, who are incredibly gifted, creative and inventive individuals, are armed with a skill set that makes them compelling to any jury.”


Associate Professor Gail Peter Borden, the school’s director of global studies, said that architectural education and issues of design are intrinsically about innovation and discovery applied to a global audience.


“Our students travel and study diverse cultures, but tackle everyday problems with ingenuity and prowess,” he said. “These awards are a natural partner for our discipline.”


The Discovery Scholars Program recognizes students “who excel in the classroom and display the ability to create exceptional new scholarship or artistic works.” To be considered for a prize, a student must have completed a culminating project in their field of study and have a grade point average of 3.5 or better.


USC Global Scholars must have each spent at least 10 weeks in other countries during their college years as well as completing a paper or project about their international experience. They also must have a minimum 3.5 GPA.


Tilak, this year’s Global Scholars winner, lived in Barcelona for a semester as part of a collaborative design studio USC has in Spain.


“Our design project was to propose urban regeneration strategies for the Poble Nou district of Barcelona, a somewhat derelict industrial area,” he said.


Tilak also traveled to Japan earlier this year on an independent traveling fellowship sponsored by the Jerde Partnership, a Los Angeles architecture firm, where he researched the implications of Tokyo’s loose zoning policy. His project for the competition, “A Tale of Three Cities,” included research from Barcelona and Tokyo, as well as a section about freeway infrastructure in Los Angeles. He is attending graduate school at Stanford University this fall in sustainable design and construction.


“I ultimately hope to work on adaptive reuse and sustainable retrofit projects in the U.S. and small-scale green-tech projects in the developing world,” he said.


Reinhardt, the 2014 Discovery Scholar awardee, said he is thinking of using his prize money to help pay for a master of fine arts degree. Or he may use the money to participate in as many artist residencies as possible, he said.


His entry for the award competition consisted of four projects — three architectural and one sculptural — that were a collective inquiry into the act of copying.


“Copying exists in multiple forms and distinct concepts, and can influence creative processes and relationships between consumers of a creation, a creation and the creator,” he said.


All the USC Architecture prizewinners have equally interesting accomplishments and current activities. They are listed here by year, with a description of how they have used their awards:


Giuliana Haro, 2008 Global Scholar, at Disneyland, where  she works as a designer. Photo courtesy of Giuliana Haro

Global Scholars

2008: Jonathan Linkus gained a year of work experience before entering the urban design program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, graduating in 2011. In collaboration with another Harvard student, he researched the Shikoku Island 88-temple “Aki-Meguri” pilgrimage in Japan “as a cultural ecosystem which evidences centuries of influence on urban development and the forest context,” he wrote. “I spent three weeks walking, mapping and documenting the religious route and its surroundings, and my Global Scholar Award was crucial in helping me to supplement [a Harvard project fund grant] for my travel.” He and his colleague mounted an exhibition at Harvard, which included an 8-minute video with 3-D flyovers, animated diagrams and large-scale mapping. Linkus now works with the urban design and planning team at RTKL in Los Angeles, where he has been the lead planner on airport city master plans for Memphis, Burbank Airport and Ekurhuleni, South Africa.


2008: While working full time as an architectural intern at the Walt Disney Co., Giuliana Haro used her award to get a master’s of architecture in real estate development from Woodbury University. Halfway through, she was hired as a salaried designer at Disney, where she works today. “My role includes leading, coordinating and designing projects from the feasibility stage through construction and close-out. I have touched all corners of the Disneyland resort with my projects, ranging from the hotels, Downtown Disney, Disney California Adventure, Disneyland and back-of-the-house ‘offstage’ areas. My most recent project is the Club 33 expansion in New Orleans Square, Disneyland.”


2009: Olen Milholland used his award to pursue a post professional master’s degree from the Yale School of Architecture, where he will graduate in 2015. “After graduation from USC, I spent just under two years living in the Netherlands working for Powerhouse Co. in Rotterdam,” he wrote. “Then I moved back to the U.S. to live in New York City and work for Diller Scofidio + Renfro for nearly three years. Last summer I was back living in New York City working for Weiss Manfredi Architects.”


2009: Right after graduation, Catherine Tang worked for Koning Eizenberg Architecture in Santa Monica and then applied her award toward a master of architecture in urban design from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, graduating in 2012. Her thesis, “The Urban Restructuring of Metropolitan Detroit,” earned a high distinction from faculty and critics. Tang then returned to California and joined AECOM in downtown Los Angeles, where she is an urban designer working on projects both domestically and abroad. “My work lies at the intersection of design, planning and policy in order to create sustainable, livable and healthy communities,” she wrote. Tang is working toward professional licensure, serves on the Pershing Square Task Force and is involved with the American Institute of Architects’ affordable housing efforts.


2010: Reid Cigolle used his award to go straight to graduate school at Yale University, where he received a master’s in architecture in 2012, studying with architects Peter Eisenman and Greg Lynn. Moving back to Los Angeles, he worked with USC Assistant Professor Victor Jones on a house project in Venice and is currently working on a small lot subdivision project that city with Cigolle x Coleman Architects.


2010: Shawn Swisher applied his award toward a master’s degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated in 2013. “The award allowed me to work with Ronald Rael, who is doing some pretty incredible things with 3-D printing technology and hone my design process,” he wrote. Now working in Phoenix, where he grew up, as an architectural designer, Swisher is working through the Intern Development Program to become registered. He’s also starting an exhibition space for art and architecture and has developed a smartphone app for parents or roommates to assign and track academic or household tasks.


2011: After graduation, travel to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain was in order for Catherine Dolan. She then began working in downtown Los Angeles for an architectural firm, which involved traveling weekly to San Francisco to work on high-rise multifamily projects. Dolan is considering using her award for graduate school in the near future in architecture or a closely related field.


2011: Carolyn Ng traveled after graduation and spent about two years in Shanghai, China, at the firm NBBJ, working on mixed use high-rise projects. She then used her award toward a master of architecture degree from UCLA, which she received this year. She is currently working in Los Angeles for Morphosis and the Now Institute, doing urban research in Haiti.


2012: After leaving USC, Michelle Ackerman Beebe worked at Rockefeller Partners Architects in El Segundo. She took a two-month leave to take the USC Chase Leavitt Traveling Fellowship Award to Switzerland to study Swiss detailing, then returned to Rockefeller Partners. She has not yet used her award, and said she is interested in using it for an architectural humanitarian project. “I am most inspired by Anthony Laney, a Discovery Scholar, who used his award toward the construction of a girls’ dorm in Cambodia,” she wrote. “I am not sure if I will join and further the work of an existing architectural project or initiate my own.” She plans to re-evaluate these two options in June 2015.


2012: Erin Cuevas has begun graduate work at the Harvard Graduate School of Design for her master of architecture II degree, which she expects to receive in 2016. She is using her award to help fund that degree and for travel next summer. For the past two years, she has been working at Standard LLP, a high-end residential and retail design and architecture firm in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silverlake. Outside of work, she has been heavily involved in Evoke Dance Company, “a philanthropic dance team focused on giving back to our community.”


2013: Meaghan Pohl currently is working as a designer at Standard LLP in Silverlake and has not yet used her award. “I am getting some work experience and trying to get my architect’s license before going back to grad school in the next couple of years,” she wrote. “Ideally, I would be able to save the money from my award to put toward traveling between semesters of school.”


2014: Anish Tilak (see story above)


A dorm under construction in Cambodia as part of  a project by Anthony Laney, 2008 Discovery Scholar. Photo courtesy of Anthony Laney

Discovery Scholars

2008: “My Discover Scholar journey has been an incredibly fascinating and fulfilling experience,” wrote Anthony Laney, who used the award to jump-start the Cambodian Dorm Project, a collaborative design and education effort. He wrote: “Assembling a team of volunteers, several of whom are also graduates of USC Architecture, we partnered with local nonprofit organizations in the design, funding and construction of safe, dignified student housing” for adolescent orphans to pursue higher education. In 2013, the team traveled to Cambodia to kick off construction. “We forged relationships which have opened the door for several new design projects,” he wrote. “Our team is currently engaged in the design of an elementary school for several hundred students as well as additional housing projects for teachers.” Laney is now a licensed architect in California and has a practice, Laney LA, Inc., with wife Krista Flascha Laney ’08.


2009: Michael Leung had planned to go to graduate school a few years after finishing at USC, but a job as an associate/senior architect at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in San Francisco intervened. He’s been able to work on significant projects both internationally (in Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Ningbo, Sushou and Beijing, China) and domestically (San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and New York). Last year, he passed his licensing exams in both New York and California and has not used his award yet.


2010: “The ability the School of Architecture has to let its students explore who they are has made a huge impact on my life and given me the confidence to value my own thoughts,” wrote Christopher Busch. After graduating, he moved to Kansas and began working on a book of images and essays that represent how future suburban neighborhoods could look and function as a privately owned but shared landscape. This type of neighborhood exists in England. He hopes to interest city officials in Kansas City, or possibly Detroit, in trying this plan of co-habiting homes for business or office purposes, with himself as a design and construction consultant. He would like to incorporate his award into work on this reinvention project. In the meantime, he is working in Kansas City for an architecture firm, focusing on university, office and laboratory work in the Kansas City area.


2011: Bernice Ngo, a USC Architecture major who earned a minor in real estate development from the USC Price School of Public Policy, plans to use her award to pursue a graduate degree in real estate development. Since graduating, she has been working as a designer at the architecture firm DLR Group in Santa Monica and is active in USC alumni groups and AIA-Los Angeles. While at USC, she did a summer study abroad program in Asia and an internship in Malaysia, resulting in “Environmentally Responsive Design: Architecture in Southeast Asia,” a portfolio that was instrumental in her Discovery Scholar award.


2012: Enoch Chow is a Discovery Scholar who has been influenced by the work of Anthony Laney (2008) in Cambodia. He originally planned to use his award for graduate school, but now wants to have it go toward missionary architecture work. Chow currently is doing missionary work in East Asia, helping college students. “I have been in the field for a little over a year now and it has been one of the toughest times in my life, but also the most fruitful and rewarding year,” he noted.


2012: Zlatan Sehovic used his award to pay off school loans and is currently working as a designer at Johnson Fain, a Los Angeles architectural and urban planning firm.


2013: After graduation, Devon Mott moved to New York City and now works at Daniel Frisch Architecture, a small firm that specializes in high-end residential design and interiors. “I value the diverse experience and increased responsibility that working in a small firm has allowed me at this early stage in my career,” she wrote, “and I am fortunate to be able to take advantage of all the cultural resources that Manhattan has to offer.” Within the next two years, she hopes to return to graduate school to pursue a post-professional master of architecture degree as well as an MBA.


2014: Kevin Reinhardt (see story above)