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Thesis Day at Maryland - Go Eli!

If you attended AIA Potomac Valley events in 2014-2016, you may remember meeting Eli Shanklin, a UMD architecture student who worked for the chapter part-time during his senior year, a gap year, and his first year as a graduate student. This morning, Eli was among the graduate students presenting his thesis in the UMD School of Architecture's Great Space. Titled “The Contemporary Local Market: Creating a Network of Food Distribution,” his program envisioned an urban farm and food market, with space for food processing and community education, in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, DC, a food desert by USDA standards. I have never seen an architecture thesis critique before, and there were definitely some well-taken questions and suggestions, but my overall impression was that Eli hit a home run with his presentation!

Eli’s employment with AIA Potomac Valley played a part in getting him to this point, helping defray his expenses to complete his professional degree and introducing him to working architects who have since employed him and helped him build his real-world skills. There had been several student assistants over the years before him as well, who also were able to make connections in the design community, find mentors and find jobs. Although we no longer have a student assistant – the opportunity to add former AIA Maryland Executive Director Pamela Rich to our staff last year was too good to pass up and has greatly expanded our member service capacity – we value our student engagement programs with the University of Maryland and Montgomery College through scholarships and mentoring. We will continue to look for concrete ways to support students who want to make architecture their career and hope you will answer the call when we look for member volunteers for these programs!

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