I guess I am the only winner of an SOM fellowship who has been called back to be a jury in a later year. I was certainly flattered and honored both to be a fellow and then to be on the jury. I think it is a good idea to have a recent winner on the panel, because this brings into the process something of the perspective of someone who not so long ago was an applicant. Serving on the jury certainly has given me some perspective from both sides.
When I was competing for the fellowship, for example, I remember that after I was nominated I spent an enormous amount of time preparing my portfolio. I even went out and got a bookbinder to bind it for me professionally. In retrospect, after being out in the real world, I realize how much effort that goes into portfolio presentations ought to be put into choosing the content. I also know from my experience as a juror how quickly certain portfolios are eliminated. This can be rather disconcerting if you have recently spent so much time putting one of these portfolios together, but I think the process is a fair one. The interview process was nerve-wracking, of course. Flying to New York to do the interviews just added to the drama. I had scrambled to put together a plausible itinerary for my project, which was to examine recent innovations in housing in Northern Europe, but I was nervous because I couldn’t know what I would do until I got there.
In fact when I did get to Europe things happened quite differently from anything I had expected because I suddenly found myself with a unique opportunity. The Versailles program (of the University of Illinois) needed someone to teach as an adjunct professor. On the one hand this narrowed my focus a little. I would not be able to go to all the places I wanted, but at the same time it allowed me to make some money and to stay in Europe for nine months longer than I had expected: six months at school, three months afterward on the fellowship and three months after that on my own traveling. Otherwise I figured that the most I would be able to stay would have been two or three months. It also allowed me to look at the Paris area in much more detail than otherwise I would have been able.
The fellowship was a very valuable experience for me. When I came back to the States I worked first with Philip Kupritz in Chicago doing a number of housing projects. Because I had so much experience with different ideas, different ways of dealing with building codes, for example, I was able to be more free or to push the envelope quite a bit more than I otherwise would have known how to do. But more than this, what the fellowship offered was freedom, freedom to set my own itinerary, to follow my own interests. In the end I think the best aspect of the travel is when it allows you to round yourself out as a human being.
- From an interview, 27 August 1996