The College of DuPage Architecture program is at the foundation of Jairo Ortega’s personal and professional accomplishments.
“The program is unlike any other academic or professional environment that I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “Beyond the unparalleled curriculum and course content, there is an incomparable sense of community within the studios and hallways of the Architecture department that has followed me throughout my personal and professional life.”
Ortega credits his success in the program to the high-caliber faculty.
“The faculty and staff do a phenomenal job of creating an inclusive community where thoughts and ideas, as they relate to architecture, are freely expressed and encouraged between students and faculty. The result is a strong community built on diversity of ideas, acceptance and understanding that changed my global perspective.”
Whle at COD, he participated in daylong charrettes—collaborative sessions where participatns draft solutions to relevant design problems—hosted by the COD Architecture club. His first one explored the idea of adding a student center to campus before the Student Services Center (SSC) was built.
“I remember suggesting a coffee shop and lounge that was central to the campus and open for everyone to converge,” he said. “The judges must have liked our idea, and our team ultimately won the charrette competition.”
Later that year, professors nominated Ortega to participate in an advisory panel to provide student insight and perspective into the design of the SSC.
“When I finally had a chance to tour the completed student center, I was really impressed by the end result. It is a real honor to have participated in its design.”
After earning his Pre-Architecture Associate in Applied Science degree, Ortega transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the prestigious UIUC Versailles Program, where he and approximately 45 students were picked nationally to travel to Versailles, France, to study architecture for a full academic year before returning to campus to finish their degrees.
“My experience in France was phenomenal,” Ortega said. “It was a great way to study architecture and travel abroad. It’s one thing to study architectural history and structures out of a book and another thing to actually visit and experience the architecture first-hand.”
After the study abroad, Ortega transferred to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Architecture. He remains involved in the architecture community, becoming a member of the COD Architecture Advising Committee where he offers advice on industry trends in architecture and construction. He also provides perspective on how to best integrate these trends into the curriculum.
Ortega points to his involvement in the charrettes as a student and being a member of the Architecture Advisory Committee as great learning experiences and his greatest contributions to COD to date.
“With the help of the COD Architecture faculty, the architecture community continues to keep in touch and help the next generation of architects,” he said. “We continue to share our ideas and experiences to motivate each other to be the best that we can be. I continue to successfully spread this sense of open community at home and at work to develop teams for personal and professional endeavors. If it wasn’t for the Architecture program at COD and its community, I wouldn’t be the leader that I am today.”
Professionally, Ortega works for a general contractor, Walsh Construction, as a project manager. He uses his knowledge and skills acquired at COD in architecture, construction management and architectural technology to build quality hotels and commercial offices.
“The two-year COD Architecture program offers the best value in the Chicagoland area. No other community college in the region offers as many articulation agreements and transfer patterns to four-year colleges of architecture,” Ortega said. “COD’s program is a solid foundation for any aspiring architect. My advice for anybody considering the COD Architecture program is to have fun and enjoy the journey. You may have an idea of what architecture is all about, but by the time you finish the program, you’ll see architecture and the world in ways you never thought possible.”