January 2015

January 2015

Updated by
Malini Srivastava

What I’ve learned thus far: Many many insights have emerged since I started this fellowship journey with my fellow-fellows and the Bush Foundation. Instead of making a long list there is one thought that I would like to share. Serendipitous concatenation of events can play a large role in our lives. As such most of these events are outside our control. What is in our control is creating the conditions and mindset that helps preserve the agility to respond to serendipity. Agility is not necessarily about changing paths, philosophies or goals with every step. Quite the opposite. It is about being aware, observant and able to absorb new influences from people, places, circumstances as they occur while staying to true to our purpose whatever that might be.

What I am currently learning

Through the doctoral program that I am using my fellowship funds for, I am starting to learn about how to add “new knowledge” to the area that you are working in. This is the part of being in a doctoral program that made me nervous. We exist in the information age surrounded by accessible and vast amounts of information about every possible subject. Adding something new to this world would first mean gathering comprehensive knowledge about a subject matter and then being able to ideate something new to that body of knowledge. Seemed like a very tall order to me! Through a wonderful team of advisors and teachers at Carnegie Mellon, I am building confidence that this is indeed possible. Through a very thoughtfully designed albeit intense program in the first semester, I was able to come up with two ideas that have the potential to be a dissertation topic and have the potential to add new knowledge. I am eagerly looking forward to the rest of this journey.

Where I am going or big forks in the road that I have run into

In 2012 along with being awarded the AIA MN Young Architect Award of the Year (AIAMN-YAA) recognition came the opportunity to examine and write about all the work that I had done as a designer and to reflect on what was my passion in life and work and how might all that shape my future. I wrote, “in the past I have pursued practice, teaching and service in architecture through various avenues. Now, as I move forward, I intend to increase the fluidity between my teaching and my practice. For me, Practice is a place of finding fitting solutions in service of clients and the environment; ........ Teaching is a safe place for students to practice and innovate towards service for the community and the environment.” Whereas the AIAMN-YAA allowed the opportunity to start thinking about the shape of the future, the Bush fellowship has made the steps possible to work towards this dream. Leading and building a team around City of Fargo’s participation in a national competition to improve city-wide energy efficiency (efargo), entrance to and completion of the first semester in the doctoral program at Carnegie Mellon, concentrating on architectural practice that focuses on environmental issues through design. Finally, all of this has led to a faculty position at NDSU that will allow me to attempt the consilience of practice, teaching, research and service in a search for design-based fitting solutions to the energy issues in our region. I think the big fork in the road came early on in the fellowship. Several Bush staff gave me very sound advice on personal development. It made me realize that my day to day job (which I loved) was not in keeping with my long term goals. It meant that I would need to 
diverge from the day to day work I was doing to strike out in a different direction. This has happened over a slow transition period in the past few months. Jan 2nd was my first day in my new job!

How is my learning impacting my current leadership and/or the work of my Fellowship?

Through the advice of the Bush Fellowship staff, the feedback from my sponsors and conversations with Bush fellows, friends and family, I realized that I needed to be able to think about various pursuits from a place of passion and purpose. I have worked over the last several months to create overlaps in the various pursuits by first defining the central work, that of, being able to address issues of energy-use and its impact on the environment through design tools and design process.

Guided by this central thought or principle, I am able to define my teaching (NDSU faculty position), research (Carnegie Mellon doctorate and NDSU faculty research requirement), leadership (efargo Project Lead with City of Fargo), practice (Design and Energy Laboratory) and service (all of the above) and find considerable overlaps in all these endeavors. Not only has this made a big difference in the time I have available for myself, friends and family, it has brought a peace of mind that I am doing all I can to align my day to day activity with my long term purpose.