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Tim Dolan, adjunct assistant professor of interior architecture at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is pairing students in his fourth-year capstone studio with alumni who are serving as professional mentors. Knowing that the coronavirus pandemic would hinder finding internships this year, Dolan made this opportunity available for his students to help them prepare for their future careers.

“The challenges of the pandemic have required us all to reconsider how to best meet the needs of our students,” Dolan said. “I knew that many, if not most, of my students lost their internships over the summer, and I hoped that this opportunity to team with professional designers will provide them not only with an advanced understanding of practice and collaboration but also a wider awareness of the capacity for resiliency and adaptation,” he said.

John Ballentine of Flux Collaborative offers advice via Zoom to Sarah Catherine Kirk.

Virtually all of the mentors who are participating in the studio are College of Architecture and Design alumni who were Dolan’s students.

Student Sarah Catherine Kirk said, “The best piece of advice I received from my mentor, John Ballentine, was to simply design, to create, and do my idea. It is simple, but he was speaking to the point of where, as designers, we can become caught up in the creative process and end up doing nothing.”

Whitney Manahan, who graduated with a BS in interior architecture in 2009 and works for McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects & Interior Designers, mentors student Sam Richwine. “One of the main things I have shared is keeping an open mind to opportunities in the profession that may not be a typical career path,” Manahan said. “I lived that experience after school, and I think that is reassuring to the students to see a broad range of career paths.”

Alumna Whitney Manahan mentors Sam Richwine.

Being able to discuss career goals has been a benefit to students. “Meeting with a professional mentor throughout the semester has allowed me to take the pressure off knowing exactly what my niche is at graduation,” Kirk said. “It has allowed me to take a second more to dream about what I truly want to do.”

“The mentor experience has really broadened my perspective of design,” said Richwine. “[Whitney’s] perspective takes on a much different approach than mine, and it has really helped me to think about architecture differently.”

All of the professionals immediately agreed when Dolan asked them to serve as mentors. “I feel that we [alumni] have a responsibility to help our students excel in every way possible, and I think it is important to rise to the occasion in times such as these,” Manahan said.

Each mentor is paired one-on-one with a student. Mentors include these professionals:

  • John Ballentine, Flux Collaborative, Austin
  • Polly Ann Blackwell, LRK, Memphis
  • Kailey Calkins, Perkins + Will, Atlanta
  • Bonnie Casamassima, Interweave
  • Geneva Frank, Zimmerman Weintraub, Chicago
  • Lauren Higdon, Gresham Smith, Nashville
  • Alexis Jolley, Smith Group, Detroit
  • Erin Lynch, Gensler, New York
  • Whitney Manahan, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Knoxville
  • Hannah Starnes, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, Knoxville
  • Ben Thornton, Clark Barnes, Spokane
  • Makenna Wood, R2R Studio, Knoxville

“I have witnessed resilience in our students. It seems as if they are adapting in so many ways with what they’ve experienced in the last year,” Manahan said.

Contact:

Amanda Johnson (865-974-6401, amandajohnson@utk.edu)