Tapping into Homegrown Talent: Student Interns Engage in AUC Next 100 Campus Plan
Last summer, six of AUC’s talented architecture students were engaged in a four-week internship program with the AUC Campus Plan team along with international architecture firm, Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners LLP (BBB) studying, designing and visualizing ideas for the next 100 years.
Working under the supervision of faculty adviser to the AUC Next 100 project, Magda Mostafa, the coordinator of the internship program at the architecture department Amr Abdel Kawi and Project Manager at BBB Anna Oursler, students collected qualitative and quantitative data about AUC’s relationship with New Cairo and explored how to improve connections with key nearby destinations such as AUC’s off-campus housing and retail destinations. Their activities included neighborhood transportation and urban development analysis, historic urban development research, building program and utilization analysis, student housing research, survey data collection, and campus gathering space analysis and design studies.
“This internship provided multiple benefits for all those involved – the students acted as both researchers/designers on some key aspect of this phase of the project. It also gave them an opportunity to have international exposure to the professional world of architectural practice,” shared Mostafa. “Their internship was part of the AUC Work-Study program and will be shared as part of their internship course requirements toward their degree. It created win-wins for everyone involved.”
With their’ keen understanding of student life needs, the students also mapped spaces used by fellow students, both formally and informally, providing insight into needs and opportunities that can be addressed by the campus plan while incorporating student design thinking in the process.
“The unique aspect of this opportunity is that students, in this case, were what we call ‘expert users’”, added Mostafa. “As users of the campus themselves, they come to its design process armed with personal experience with its current spaces, as well as aspirational visions for its growth. We believe in our students' professional capabilities and were proud to extend that expertise with the BBB team.”
The results of the internship were significantly productive – the Campus Plan team received detailed and knowledgeable stakeholder input from the student interns, with fruitful ideas about the design of future gathering spaces and analysis of space use, which are set to be integrated into the AUC Next 100 Campus Plan. Moving forward, the students will be presenting their ideas to AUC’s senior leadership, and these ideas will be acknowledged and featured in the final Campus Plan report.
“Having the opportunity to be part of this internship and working closely with the team on the AUC Next 100 Campus Plan was really appreciated,” noted Yara Ibrahim, architecture student. “Working with the BBB team on our campus was beneficial not only to them but for us as interns.
"The fact that we got to apply what we have been studying in architecture for years and doing that for such a project gave me an experience that I would not have gained elsewhere," she emphasized.
Indeed, Abdel Kawi noted, “The Department of Architecture is always focused on connecting students with the professional community in more than one way to ensure them a seamless transition into the work environment,” highlighting that the department requires students to undertake two internships during their studies in both architectural design firms along with a construction company to make adequate connections between academia and practice.
“It feels great knowing that I contributed to the design of the future campus expansion. The New Cairo campus means a lot to me because it is the venue of many of my most memorable moments at AUC,” reflected Mahmoud El Kady, architecture student. “I am personally very fond of Abdel Halim Ibrahim, and being allowed to build on his designs is something that I take a lot of pride in. ..I am very grateful to have been given a seat at the table, even if it only lasted a month. The BBB team trusted our judgment and gave us the liberty to do things our way. My opinions and views were always taken seriously, and I was treated not only as an architect and designer but also as a stakeholder. Moreover, working with BBB has taught me that real-life architecture practice isn't too different from what I practice in my design studios.”
“The AUC internship program was the first of its kind at BBB and a tremendous success!” said Hany Hassan, partner and director of BBB’s Washington, D.C. office. “The students brought new and creative ideas into the planning process, alongside expertise about how the campus is used. Their contributions were a source of inspiration for our design team, and we were delighted to work with a remarkably talented group of AUC students.”