Thursday, January 24, 2008

One Man's Journey to DArch (or was it ArchD)

I dedicate this post to my sweet Todd. This road we call "school" has taken almost 10 years. I post it for those of you who may be considering an education in the field of Architecture, going to the University of Hawaii or for those who just want to know exactly what is going on with this whole school thing right now.

Let's start back in 1997...when Todd and I first met. At the time, he was at Salt Lake Community College (a fine institution). He was focusing on his generals and had planned on attending the University of Utah once he had received his Associates Degree.

Todd has known since he was a very young lad that he wanted to be an Architect. Interesting that we should marry with such similar interests (I was at SLCC studying Interior Design before we "met").

Todd graduated from SLCC in May of....I can't remember. I think it was 2000. We had plans for him to go up to the U in the Fall of that year. He enrolled in the classes that are pre-requisites for the Architecture program and in the fall he took them.

He didn't enjoy the classes as much as he thought he would. Knowing that he still wanted to be an architect, he thought that if he found a different school he could have a different experience than he thought he'd get at the U. So the search began for other architecture schools.

In November of 2001, we put our cute little house in Taylorsville up for sale. The schools we had selected to apply to were all out of state, so we wouldn't be needing our home anymore. Where did Todd apply to?

University of Washington
University of Idaho
The New School of Architecture in San Diego
Arizona State University

January came and we were still waiting to hear back from each of the schools Architecture departments. Todd began having phone interviews with them and we were leaning more towards Idaho State University.

In February (after we sold our home and moved in with Ken & Tonya) Todd's brother Adam was telling Todd that Idaho "was lame" and that "we should move somewhere warm and tropical."

"Wouldn't it be cool if there was an Architecture school in Hawaii?"

So Adam and Todd looked into it, and behold, the University of Hawaii had an architecture department. Todd called me up at work and asked if I would mind if he applied there. I replied, "no, I don't care." In my mind I knew we were going to move to Idaho, it was just a fun way to fulfill Todd's (or Adam's) fantasy.

Todd heard back from each of the schools in April as to where in the program he would be accepted. Washington, Arizona and San Diego would all have him starting out fresh and would be a 5 year Masters program. We were still waiting to hear back from Idaho.

We turned those three schools down while waiting for our reply from Idaho. Hawaii would call almost weekly encouraging Todd to join their "new" program. They were experimenting with an Architectural Doctorate program. They were doing away with the Bachelors and Masters. The ArchD program would be 7 years and they would accept Todd as a 3rd year student. They assured him that he could complete his ArchD within 3 years, if he took a full-time load every semester including summers.

It was so enticing, or as Adam put it "a no brainer." So we accepted the offer. How wonderful it was going to be to live in warm, sunny, tropical Hawaii over cold, dreary Moscow Idaho. The tuition at UH was cheaper than the other schools and we knew it would be a great experience.

In July of 2002 we sold all of our belongings (cars, furniture, clothes, kitchen stuff, sewing machine, taxidermy, artwork) and flew to Hawaii with just our clothes. That was all we owned at the time. When we arrived in Hawaii it was not what I had expected.

The weather was nice and balmy. But we landed in a concrete jungle. We began the house search. House isn't the best word. Apartment search. We (by a miracle of the Lord) found a two bedroom apartment quickly (this truly is a miracle for anyone living in Hawaii). We payed the unbelievably low price of $825 monthly (that is how much our house payment was). We were floored, but after seeing what our other options were, we were blessed and grateful.

The school was kind and accomodating to Todd. He got registered quickly and for classes he was interested in. He made friends with his class members and the education began.

Each semester came and went and with each semester promises were broken. The plans changed. Classes that were supposed to be offered in the summer weren't. The ArchD program wasn't accepted by "the board" then it was, then it wasn't. Then it was changed to a DArch. Whatever. In the end, 3 years turned into 5.

We could no longer afford the Hawaiian lifestyle or the schooling. So with just one year left, a dissertation to write and a final project to complete we prayed for help and guidance. We were granted Todd's request to complete his dissertation and project from the mainland.

As of right now, Todd has completed his dissertation. His board has reviewed it and we are just awaiting their revisions. Once Todd receives them, he will make the necessary changes and if he can get them to the head of his board by Tuesday, Todd will graduate in May of this year. If not...he won't graduate until August of this year.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us.

I must say, this whole experience has been incredible for us. Our Heavenly Father has directed our path the entire time (even when we weren't watching or paying attention). Because of Him, we have not had to accrue the debt that most students do when in a doctoral program. We had sold our home and our belongings and with that money, we were able to survive the first year in Honolulu without taking any loans and without Todd working.

When money ran low, Todd quickly found a great job with a flexible and understanding employer. I was also able to find two jobs that were flexible (one at the Institute Building across from Todd Architecture Building) and in great environments.

Here are some of the things I am most grateful for that have come out of Todd attending the University of Hawaii:

~Being quickly welcomed into the amazing Makiki Ward Family
~Watching friends with children struggle through school...I supposed we could do it we did.
~Learning that as long as you have friends, you can have a family anywhere in the world (especially when involved in the church)
~Living in humble circumstances and then being forced to move to even humbler circumstances...with a newborn baby
~Learning through a bed-ridden friend that life is beautiful no matter where you are at. It's all in how you look at it.
~Being a part of the organization of a new ward, the McCully Ward
~Visiting Singapore with Todd's Architecture Studio Class
~The chance to visit different types of scenery when I wanted to
~Todd being able to go on his Practicum's (and take us with him) and get once-in-a-lifetime experience from HKS in Dallas and Sasaki in Boston

I have so much gratitude in my heart right now. We are so close, I can finally taste it. Thanks especially to our families for supporting and encouraging us through this all. We truly couldn't have done this without you.

Man, this post made me nostalgic for these memories....I think I will post about those for posterities sake. Hope you all are looking forward to a walk down memory lane.


Emilee said...

You truly are an amazingly supportive wife! It's obvious that this ArchD degree has been a team effort!! I'm so glad that there's light at the end of the tunnel, it's ALL going to be worth it!

All about the Benjamin's said...

I have tried to get in contact with you through your blogs; I have not heard back at all! Anyways, My husband is an Architect and graduated from the U. I wish you all the best, I know how hard it is to be a wife and have little kids while going through the schooling, it is worth it in the end. I would love to chat.
Take care,
Shalise (Veenendaal) Benjamin
*remember from Mountain States Mortgage!

Lori B said...

You and your family continue to BLOW ME AWAY! Just when i am feeling down and out about my own situation I read your blog and BAM, I'm grateful and inspired by your words...not to mention your journey!!
You and Todd have done so well and have gone through a lot (like us all).
Many blessings and good vibes coming your way for Graduation in MAY!!!! August is not an option ;)

Keep us 'posted' and thanks for all the great pics below, the kids are just beautiful works of art from the both of you.
~~Cheers and oxoxo~~Lori B.
PS. Did you get the box??

Meredith & Company said...

Hey Mel! Thanks for the comment. It is so hard to put a husband through school...I feel your pain. My husband graduated 2 years ago from law school, and it's been a long road for us both. We seem to take turns earning degrees, so we must enjoy punishment or something. Good luck. I'm glad there's a light at the end of the tunnel and I hope graduation happens in May. Cute kids, by the way!

Angie said...

Hey, so I couldn't tell if you were mad that Adam had a part in all of this or not? Don't worry, sometimes I get mad at his ideas too, or could I say I always get mad at his ideas. I guess it's somewhere in between. Sorry you had to fulfill his dreams. He would still move to Hawaii in a heartbeat!!! Or anywhere for that matter. Anybody want to live in PERU. I love my crazy husband.

Live everyday to its fullest said...

Oh Dearest Mel! I am so proud of both of you! You have endured alot and are comming out on top! It is amazing when you take the time to reflect and look back how incredbly blessed you truly have been. Even though at the time it didnt feel like that! I am sooooo glad for both of our decisions to move to Hawaii other wise I would have never met you...and you are truly a gem in my life! You are so sweet and so kind and I dont know what I'd do without you! LOVE YOU ALL RICHES FAM! Brian says to tell Todd hello and that he had better have his blubs ready to go this summer!

Heather, Dan, and Family said...

Wow, what a crazy journey. It is great to hear a little more of the story. We feel so blessed that we got to be a part of your life for a short time at least. And you make me nostalgic for Hawaii too! Isn't life so unpredictable at times?

The Reading Armadillo said...

That is quite the journey. I'm glad you guys are almost through, and I'm especially glad that you live so close to us now!

Cassi said...

What a journey. I am glad the end is in site for you--Congrats! I often think how much these experiences teach us and how we need them, but good thing I didn't know what I was getting into or else I would have ran the other way.