Grad School Semester One

When I graduated college, I couldn’t imagine wanting to continue on to graduate school the following fall, mostly because I was tired of being graded on my life. I knew I would always go back to school so I decided that it would be best to take some time off, work in a preservation job, figure out what I wanted to study in grad school, and breathe for a while. Life has a tendency to work out and it did just that. Overhills was the perfect job for me and it led me to the University of Vermont for my M.S. Historic Preservation.

I used to wonder why grad school was only 1-2 years (in most fields) because it seemed so short compared to undergrad studies, but now I think I know why: 3-4 years of grad school might kill us all. Grad school is exhausting, but so far I have survived semester one. What is grad school like? Some readers know already, as they have been through this, but the best thing I can say is: as in most endeavors in life, graduate school is entirely what you make of it; you get out what you put in – regarding effort, interest, and thinking.

How does graduate school compare to college, so far? I generally explain it as UMW and UVM are complementary for me. I do have similar classes in graduate school, but having the well-rounded preservation base from Mary Washington has allowed me to approach my studies at Vermont differently. I am able to think one step beyond what I thought before, melding theory and practice and not learning it for the first time. It is easy to see why assignments and readings are given and how they fit into the historic preservation subject as a whole. Vermont fits me very in this sense. Regarding assignments, I think the major difference is that projects in grad school are semester long assignments and collectively build on each other, whereas in undergrad it was more common to have one assignment and then move on (carrying the lessons, but not necessarily the particular subject). Because of this, graduate studies can get exhausting because there is never a moment to stop thinking.

My semester projects can be summed up in just a few words and pictures. Architectural history, community design, researching historic structures, and preservation planning.

UVM HP200 / Architectural History: An architectural description and analysis for this lakeside house.

UVM HP206 / Researching Historic Structures and Sites: The Vermont Barn Census in Townshend, VT.

UVM HP304 / Contemporary Preservation Planning & Policy: A research paper on the case of the Lake Champlain Bridge and how it relates to and interacts with historic preservation.

UVM CDAE295 / Community Design Studio (Sustainable Communities): A semester long group project working to come up with sustainable, in all sense of the word, uses for a historic site in rural Charlotte, VT. My drawings are the second from left, top and bottom - it was kind of like measured drawings, but with more drawing than measurements.

And that was my semester. Following my architectural history final exam, my brain took a vacation and I couldn’t remember where I put anything while baking cookies the next day. (Where is the measuring spoon? Oh, right, behind me. Did I put it there?) But, I think my brain is back, which is good timing because I have some books to read and research options to consider over the break.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my first semester back at school, though I think all I did was homework. However, it’s nice to have some breathing room at Christmastime. Fellow students, how was your fall semester?