Student Spotlight: Jacob Bielanski
Jacob Bielanski initially began taking classes in mechanical engineering at College of DuPage but wasn’t engaging with the material.
“I was fascinated with design and mechanical systems and their tactility in nature, but I found the truest expression of this in the dreams from my youth to become an architect,” he said. “Architecture is much more than designing structures and to me is more of an application of design process. Anything and everything is up for interpretation.
“My College of DuPage education in architecture started with developing fundamentals. We drew with colored pencils, we sketched and we made forms that shaped light with foam board in the first year. Three things lie hidden in those projects: When we draw, we learn basics of illustration and presentation; when we sketch, we learn how to develop form and concept; and when we model while looking at light, we learn to recognize otherwise inconspicuous things as workable materials – namely light. As we progressed into the second year, we saw how many of these base skills came into play when they let us start designing buildings.”
Bielanski applied what he learned during the Design Build summer course, offered every two years. Students work with an on-campus client, design and then build a gathering pavilion on campus. For his course, the client represented the natural areas on campus, so the pavilion would function as a gathering point and landmark for both the Russell R. Kirt Prairie and the on-campus gardens that provide produce for the COD Fuel Pantry, a project in which Bielanski already was involved.
“It began in a small group communications class I took that was taught by Lauren Morgan,” he said. “For our final project, I joined a group led by Hope Drager, who was using the class opportunity of a service project to further Phi Theta Kappa’s goal of opening a food pantry on campus.
“My assistance was clerical at first, write ups for schedules and other hypotheticals to present to various people within the College. Ultimately we were talking about a logo and I had a spontaneous idea about the chaparral head and a flame as Hope was passionate about the name ‘Fuel Pantry.’ I thought it was fitting for the Chaparral to be the source of ‘fuel’ in a sense for the flame. It evoked a sense of energy, so I made a quick sketch on a whiteboard and developed it into what the logo for the current day Fuel Pantry is.”
Being part of the Design Build class gave Bielanski a unique perspective on the growth and power of student work on campus and the impact on the school and students. The project also offered several leadership opportunities and gave him an opportunity to think critically on teamwork as well as the importance of team diversity.
“It took many people to eventually develop the new pavilion into how it stands today and is an experience that is rare to get at other community colleges,” he said. “The teamwork part is especially interesting because studying architecture at COD is a very small world. You become very familiar with each other basically to the point of family. No matter where we seem to transfer, you always know someone.”
Bielanski stayed at COD for a third year in order to lighten his class load for transfer and is now at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He cannot say enough about COD and the Architecture program.
“All of the students only say great things about being prepared for a four-year university, even to the point of saying that COD is better in many ways,” he said. “I can easily recommenced COD as architecture is a study that you really can only get out of it what you put into it and the smaller class sizes give you the opportunity to work more one-on-one with faculty.
“Like many, I chose COD because of value. The prospect of having a couple years of education without debt is huge and, at the time, I did not feel 100 percent confident in my direction. Ultimately COD gave me many opportunities to learn in fields outside of architecture and gave me several real-world lessons to prepare me for professional work. The pantry was also a very interesting thing to see develop from doing clerical work and making their logo to playing such a big part in designing something that will truly remain permanent.”
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