Campus after dark: Architecture students work late nights

By and

David Costanza stayed awake for 68 hours straight last semester working on projects for his architecture class.

Costanza, a first-year architecture student at the U, said that for students in the College of Architecture and Planning, Finals Week is really finals month, and students take 15-minute naps in the architecture building on campus instead of going home to sleep.

“Last semester, it wasn’t uncommon to have at least 10 people sleeping here,” he said.

Undergraduate architecture students spend most of their days, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in class. Students are charged for about 14 credit hours, but are actually in class for around 22 to 26 hours during the week, with breaks for lunch, said Eric Boam, a second-year architecture student.

Haley Tessier, another second-year architecture student, said she has seen many students staying in the architecture building during all hours of the night finishing projects and taking occasional naps on cots and sleeping bags under their desks.

“I know a first-year student who actually moved in,” she said. “When you’re here 20 hours a day, what’s another four hours?”

Students are allowed to stay in the building to work on projects, but not live in the building, administrators said.

It’s not unusual for somebody to grab a nap in the building, said Peter Atherton, associate dean of architecture.

“Concerning sleeping bags or cots, those are just rumors,” he said. “I have never seen sleeping bags in the building.”

Libby Haslam, an architecture professor, said the workload for students is intense, but no student needs to stay up all night in the building. Many new students don’t know how to manage their time efficiently or work quickly, and they end up working late to finish in time, she said.

Students do spend most of their time in the building, said Mira Locher, another professor of architecture. Projects can take from one to five hours to complete, and many students work on building plans for hours trying to perfect them, she said.

“It depends how much effort you want to put into your work,” said Jarman Montgomery, a first-year architecture student. “You’re in class all day, then you start homework for the next day until you finish.”

Architecture students finish general classes and prerequisites for architecture school before applying for the undergraduate program. There are more than 100 students who apply for the architecture program, and about 50 to 60 are accepted, Montgomery said.

“It’s a fight to have to go through Hell,” he said.

They spend two years finishing their degrees before applying to graduate school. There isn’t much you can do with an undergraduate degree in architecture that you couldn’t do without it, Boam said.

“Graduate school is the ultimate goal,” he said.

The architecture building becomes a home base for many students to finish projects. Students keep refrigerators, freezers, microwaves and pictures of friends and family in the building. Costanza keeps a spare change of clothes by his personal desk as well as five containers of Colombia coffee.

“We usually drink anywhere between four to six cups of coffee a day,” he said.

Besides having their own personal desk, students use the workshop, which is located inside the building, to cut up supplies and work on projects. The shop is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but some students who are experts stay there all night, Boam said.

“If they know the first-years have a project due on Monday, they’ll stay open all night on Sunday,” he said.

Students find time for work and other things besides school work, but most quit their jobs to work solely on their degree, Tessier said.

Mike Sommer, an architecture graduate student, said that when he was an undergraduate student, he found time for a social life and worked full time.

“I’ve never had to sleep up here, but I know people who have,” he said. “I just push straight through until my work is done, and I can still squeeze in three to four hours of sleep.”

Besides hard work, some architecture students said they are also heavily in debt.

Tessier said she owes around $50,000 in student loans.

“I spent over $300 on supplies for just one project,” she said.

However, others find time to work during the summer and rely on scholarships to help keep them out of debt. Sommer said that between work and other savings, he managed to be $20,000 in debt by the time graduate school arrived.

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Teresa Getten

Jarmon Montgomery and Dave Costanza relax during a long night at the Architecture Building.