or anyone wondering how far they can go with an Architectural Technology degree from Rend Lake College, look no farther than Kellen Minor. He has worked on several large-scale projects, such as office towers in the Caribbean, and currently is enrapt in a one-of-a-kind project involving more than 30 high-rise towers in the Middle East, the like of which most architects will never have the opportunity to work on.
RLC Architectural Technology Professor Rick Marlow said Minor, a Waltonville High School graduate, probably is the best student he has had the pleasure of teaching.
“I feel that he is a real success story about where someone can go with an RLC degree,” Marlow said.
Minor, 24, said his fascination with architecture likely began with his mother, who encouraged his creativity at a young age.
“She would always encourage me to make do with what I had, which inspired me to use what I had to create what I didn’t have,” Minor said. “My brother Kasey and I would spend hours building anything from custom playhouses to gadgets to put on our bikes.”
In the sixth grade, Minor had the chance to tour famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana Thomas House in Springfield. “I was amazed by Wright’s architecture, and after attending Kid Architecture (an ongoing architectural summer camp headed by John Davey, a professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) in the seventh grade, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I have always loved to design and am always thinking about new ways of doing everyday things. This is how I realized that architecture is all about creative problem solving.”
Next step: Rend Lake College.
Minor said RLC was the best choice for him at the beginning of his higher education and career. He said he believes it was the foundation for the skills he needed to succeed in the profession. He praised his instructors, saying Marlow demonstrated the knowledge base in architecture while Architectural Technology Professor Kevin Weston exposed him to the latest computer software, which helped Minor put the ideas in his mind on the computer screen so he could communicate them with others.
Minor said another advantage he received at RLC was exposure to three-dimensional computer technology, which not only helped him in later years but also gave him an edge on the competition for part-time internships along the way.
After graduating from RLC in May 2001 with an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Architectural Technology, Minor transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Studies in two years. He then went directly to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his Masters Degree in Architecture.
“A good foundation early on allowed me to focus on design while other students were just beginning to sit down at a computer in their junior and senior years,” Minor said.
Then came the difficulties of the job hunt. Minor said he wanted to join a notable firm and move to a mid-sized or large city.
“I talked to a contact at a job fair who I met the previous year and he recommended TVS (Thompson, Ventulett, Stainback and Associates, headquartered in Atlanta). I started to research Atlanta and the rest was history,” he said.
Minor is pleased with the way things have worked out so far and is happy with his decision to join TVS, which is a large firm with around 300 employees with offices in Chicago, Dubai, and Atlanta. TVS was awarded “Firm of the Year” by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2002 and received a 2005 AIA Honor Award for its work on the Washington D.C. Convention Center.
“Architecture is a lot of work, but it also can be very rewarding,” Minor said. He is now an intern architect working on large-scale projects, mostly overseas.
“I just finished working on a Hyatt Hotel and two office towers in the Caribbean on the island of Trinidad. Currently, I am part of a design team working on a portion of a major project in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This mind-blowing project consists of 34 high-rise towers sitting on top of seven levels of parking deck, holding around 50,000 cars, on top of a man-made island. Needless to say it is a very exciting project, and they say very few architects will ever get the chance to work on anything like it,” Minor said.
So what advice does Minor have for others pursuing a career in architecture?
“If you are planning on pursuing an associate’s degree and then entering the workforce, I would say take complete advantage of the computer training that Rend Lake College offers. Chances are that when you find a job, you will be miles ahead of your co-workers with your new-found knowledge of the latest computer-aided drafting and three-dimensional software.”
For those considering RLC as the first step in their educations, Minor’s advice is to try to narrow down the choice of a secondary institution from the beginning. “Because every university has a different architecture program, it would be wise to tailor your curriculum at RLC to better your chances for a smooth transition,” Minor said.
He said if students are unsure about architecture, there are numerous related fields in which Rend Lake College can offer experience. He recommended speaking with Marlow or Weston to discover the options available to them.
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