This month in Illuminating Alumni we catch up with three DIS alumni pursuing Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in different parts of the globe and ask them what role their time abroad as an undergraduate played in their current academic studies.
Name: Brandon Hall
Bachelors: B.S. Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, MO
DIS Program: Architecture, fall 2009
Currently: Third and final year Master’s student in Architecture at Yale University
DIS provided a lens through which to see and understand the role of architecture in Scandinavia. Understanding the cultural and political positioning of the Danes is key to interpreting the role that design takes on, and is one of the things that makes Danish architecture both remarkable and approachable. Canonical methods of urban organization like the five finger plan and the Copenhagen metro show the realization of innovative design solutions to address growing environmental concerns. The Danes have also avoided the cliques and pitfalls of historical centric building practices, instead embracing the beauty that can come from the interplay between contemporary architecture and historic city fabric, aided by a lineage of phenomenal designers from Arne Jacobsen to Henning Larsen to Bjarke Ingels.
I think first and foremost Copenhagen is a wonderful place to live and study. It is approachable and at the same time foreign, comfortable but radically different. I enjoyed my time at DIS and I returned to practice architecture in Denmark for a year. These are experiences that will have a far greater impact on you than you know. Make the most of it!
Name: Warren Kunce
Bachelors: Wellesley College, B.A. Environmental Geosciences
DIS Program: Medical Practice & Policy, spring 2007
Currently: Ph.D. candidate in Ecotoxicology (focus on pesticide mixtures and aquatic insects)
Following my time at DIS, I returned to the States and completed my final year at Wellesley College. Then I went on to study Aquatic Environmental Biology for a year as a Fulbright scholar at the University of Southern Denmark.
My semester at DIS completely changed the trajectory of my life. There aren’t that many opportunities for science majors to study abroad. In my case, the opportunity at DIS led to another which led to another! It played a large role in my decision to move to Scandinavia permanently. I ended up getting my M.S. degree from Uppsala University in Sweden in Ecotoxicology. My current Ph.D. program here in Uppsala is also in ecotoxicology with a focus on pesticide mixtures and aquatic insects.
Name: Ariel Gregory
Bachelors: Smith College, double-major in Anthropology and Architecture (with a concentration in Urban Design)
DIS Program: Architecture and Urban Design programs, fall 2009 and spring 2010
Currently: Master’s student in Human and Economic Geography at the University of Oxford
The highlight of my time at DIS was meeting so many interesting people – both students and local Danes – and being able to explore Copenhagen and the surrounding area with them. Denmark is a country of hidden depths; from a design perspective, it was a constant surprise discovering how close I was to some of the most innovative current work in sustainable architecture, often times a metro stop away! From a personal perspective, I met some of my closest non-academic friends there. Some of my favorite memories are of sitting in Paludan’s bookstore (in the center of the city), and enjoying a lazy Sunday brunch with my studio-mates while discussing sites we’d visited during class earlier that week.
At the moment I am a Master’s student at the University of Oxford studying Human and Economic Geography and the case studies I analyzed on site and in studio while part of the Architecture program have proved invaluable. Being able to poke around sites, experiencing the light and the sound and the ambiance of spaces in person, simply can’t be replicated in books or visual media. I would highly recommend it – especially if you’re considering the Architecture program! And, I would add that (while not necessary), it’s well worth taking Danish classes.