Ninth Annual Summer Workshop Thrives in Chicago
Each year, a group of visual communication design students gather during intercession to learn about environmental design from professor David Middleton. In years past, the course took place on campus. This year, students and faculty stayed in Chicago to study the environmental design of Northwestern University.
“We’ve always run the workshops at Kent, working on regional sites, and bringing in professionals from around the country” Middleton said. “This year, instead of bringing the experts here, we decided to take the students there. Chicago has a strong base of professionals who were willing to spend time with us.
Quintin Steele, senior VCD student, attended the conference, this year titled GoChicago!, for the first time and was thrilled it took place in a big city.
“I grew up in a small town, and I haven’t gone out and seen much of the world,” Steele said. “Going to Chicago was amazing. I didn’t really have any expectations going into it, so when I got there, everything was amazing to me.”
Adjunct professor Bob Kelemen attended the conference for the third time and was instrumental in its success in a new location, Middleton said.
“Chicago opened a lot of possibilities,” Kelemen said. “I think the students had a great time.”
Students carpooled to reach the Windy City and stayed in a hostel during the two-week course. Throughout the class, they studied the minimal environmental design that existed at Northwestern and submitted their own suggestions for the campus as a final project.
“It was the ideal place to go to do the project because it didn’t have any way-finding or signage,” Steele said. “What it did have was really disconnected. It gave us a blank piece of paper to try to create off of.”
The students were separated into teams and worked together to create an environmental design plan for the campus. Steele said the project was unique of the rest of his VCD coursework because he was rarely able to work with other students. Kelemen said that was one of the best learning experiences offered by the course.
“The students got to work in groups,” Kelemen said. “It was a group effort. In the real world, you have to collaborate in environmental design. They got a realistic view of the teamwork they’ll experience after graduation.”
In addition to traditional coursework, Middleton was also able to reach out to Kent State alumni who worked in the Chicago area. Many alumni spoke to the students, offering advice on their careers and projects.
“It had a great influence on me as just a professor,” Kelemen said of the alumni speakers. “Any time you hear something from a professional, you have to listen. I learned a lot.”
Months of planning went into the relocation of the class. Middleton worked diligently to find an inexpensive housing location, rent a classroom space, plan field trips to museums and industrial locations and schedule alumni visits.
“Sometimes the students can’t appreciate how much planning goes into it, but it’s well worth the added effort,” Kelemen said.
Middleton was pleased with the outcome of the course this summer and is looking forward to hosting the class in a different location in years to come.
“It’s fully immersive,” Middleton said. “You worry these things are going to blow up in your face, but this ran as smooth as can be. Students have said they learn more in two weeks than in any class they’ve taken.”