UB's first Fulbright: Burns finds new way to study architecture
Dylan Burns, a sophomore architecture major, spent his summer discovering the "sociology of architecture."
Burns was the first UB student to be chosen for the Fulbright Summer Institute. He was exposed to England's culture, heritage and history through his studies at Nottingham Trent University.
The program had a different theme each week, which showed the city through the lenses of different professions. It was during the fine arts week that Burns came up with the idea for his final project, which cataloged the importance of people in architecture.
"You can have the physical, the space and the built environment," Burns said. "But if you don't have the people, both populating and interacting with space and turning it from a space into place, then it doesn't really mean anything."
The project was supposed to be on how people interact with their urban environments. Burns said one of his instructors told the students to explore and do something artistic. It was then that Burns decided to learn more about the people in the city, rather than architecture itself.
He sought out about 35 people from all over the city and attempted to uncover the citizens' interactions with others and their city by asking four questions: If you knew no one would judge you, what would you do differently? What do you pretend to understand? Why do you matter? And if you could give advice to anyone, what would it be?
He took photos of the different people and locations and then pinned together the places he had met and interviewed each person. He organized these images on a board to express the meaning behind his project. On one half of the board, he had an in-depth map, and on the other half, images of streets. Through this design, Burns attempted to express the idea that it doesn't matter where or when you approach someone - you can have a good conversation anywhere.
"It made me think a lot more about the sociology of architecture," Burns said. "All the people that interact out in the real world will interact similarly inside and around the building. You'll want to consider that when you're designing."
He said so many people who pass by are strangers, and, unless they have made a very strong impression, they are forgotten. His project taught him that people can learn how to interact with their cities and subsequently create a stronger community.
Neville Stankley, a senior lecturer in heritage study at Nottingham Trent, was one of Burns' teachers.
"[Burns's project] was an impressive consideration of space as a place through the eyes of the citizens of Nottingham," Stankley said.
Burns said the summer program helped him think about the possibilities for further study within his academic career.
"I hope to do some sort of study abroad to see what the world without architects would be like," Burns said.
Burns said Fulbright has already encouraged him to apply to future graduate programs. He hopes he'll someday focus on how architecture relates to his past experience, sociology and urban planning.
Burns notes this program helped him appreciate different perspectives, and he hopes to implement that in future work. He said the Fulbright Summer Institute enhanced his education, too, and without this experience, he wouldn't have understood the connection of all subjects.
"It's just a great experience ... there's so many different ways you can try and shape your experience," Burns said. "It'd be hard not to find something that peaks your interest."
Stankley said many students are very "lively," eager to soak up as much of the experience as possible.
The 2013 Fulbright Summer Institute had nine programs available for U.S. citizens. This summer program allowed U.S. students to explore and learn in the United Kingdom. The opportunity is given to undergraduate students who are over the age of 18 and have two years or less of undergraduate study remaining. Students who participate in the program are placed in a highly regarded university within the United Kingdom, according to the institute's website.
Stankley said it was only in 2012 that Nottingham Trent became part of the summer program.
Burns said he found the Fulbright program through Elizabeth Colucci, senior assistant director at the University Honors College, and SPARK. Colucci is responsible for UB's national and international fellowships and scholarships. She said SPARK is a program created last year available to honors students.
SPARK, a six-week program, exposes different fellowships and scholarships to students. This spring, Colucci plans to open SPARK to the academies and other groups to further help students.
Colucci said international students should look into their own countries for fellowships and scholarships because Fulbright is only available to U.S. students.
"The first step is come to a workshop to learn about it," Colucci said. "You do not have to be in honors to be a part of the fellowship and scholarship process."
There are several workshops this fall, which will help students prepare their applications and hone their competitive writing skills. Students who are interested should look over the National Fellowships and Scholarships webpage to find out more about the opportunities.
Burns said he learned a lot about himself, his future and his society through the program, and he recommends other students to apply, as well.