A Man Around Campus

What a fun week it was last week! A new puppy, a new truck, a new project at work, and--most interestingly--a new opportunity to join a group of "professional advisors" for a landscape architecture college at a major university.

Get a fresh perspective by heading back to school.

What an honor to be asked and a pleasure to serve in that capacity!

The week ended with a trip back to school for a two-day engagement with the college kids.

Yes, I spent 24 hours--on campus--with college kids...and I did not do an all-nighter and I left town with nearly all the money I came with!

It was a trip with a harsh age-reality check: These kids are younger than my own! (Why does my back ache all of a sudden?)

As I reflect on the experience, I grin with a sense of accomplishment. Boyd Coleman’s Week-Ender post from last Friday about doing something meaningful, leaving something for others--a legacy of which you can take prideful ownership--resonates within me.

Collaborating with students, in a classroom setting, is yet another way of leaving a professional legacy.

Having spent a few days with students, it was I who ended up learning something about this profession of ours. My education (re)-started within 15 minutes of my arrival on campus.

First, I found myself judging team designs and presentations. Three teams of 3 to 4 students co-presented their design assignment to six jury members.

The next day ended with having a few professional advisors join in on a fun, impromptu design charette that lasted all of 90 minutes. The winning team was rewarded with a gift card from a popular local restaurant. Think of it as these soon-to-be young professionals’ first pay day!

The charette was fun. Listening and interacting with the students was refreshing and enlightening. Not only did the students employ sound design processes and principles, they were creative and knowledgeable in current trends of the industry.

The students proved to be quite tactful in their people skills, as well, interacting productively with professionals and fellow students alike. Think of it as these soon-to-be young professionals’ first project management experience.

I left town assured that the students were becoming well-schooled in design, teaming, and presentation. However, them knowing what pays the light bill was of some concern. We seasoned folks know those teachings as time management, fees, billable rates, insurance, liabilities, business ownership woes, consulting, collaboration, fee budgets, and project construction budgets.

As you might have experienced in your career, a book and classroom does the profession's business decision-making little justice. For that education, students need time on a payroll.

Kids learn fast. Up-and-coming professionals need the mentorship of experience. They can also benefit from our sharing of hard-knocks wisdom.

All the advice given and the time spent with students may not strike a physical mark on the world, but it could very well leave a lasting impression on a career. Think about it. I venture a guess that all of us can recite, word for word, a favorite professor's advice, to this day.

I also imagine that professor's influence has shaped, to some degree, the professional you have become. And that is after how many years away from his or her classroom?

As brief was the time spent being a man around campus, helping my newfound university colleagues was quite enjoyable. The students’ energy and enthusiasm was contagious.

With today's hectic business pace often trumping pure creativity, it was fun to simply roll out the bumwad, grab the favorite sketching instruments of choice, and try my darnedest to get graphite and ink smudged on my hands. Now if only the permanent marker would wash off....

Think about what you might contribute to education by one day going back to school. Perhaps consider being a student again, at least for a couple of days--maybe this weekend. Sketch, read, wear wrinkled clothes. It could improve your post-college grade point average in many ways.

Tim May is a professional landscape architect and LEED AP for TNP in Forth Worth, Texas. He can be reached via email at tmay@tnpinc.com or by twitter at @TMay82