Not just a meeting place that is missing, but an attractive physical space for the students
“How are we supposed to even have casual interaction between us from different dept. at LANDSAM, when we sit at the opposite ends on campus?”
This was one of the immediate questions a student brought up, when addressing the aspect of fostering a common culture among the landscape architecture, property & law, urban and regional planning. Some of these students are sitting half a kilometer away from each other. One should note that the sharing culture of knowledge, such as curriculum notes is already well established between the students. Aside from this, what the students identify as lacking for a common culture among students, is a physical common space. This regarding as to what exactly, encourages simple encounters such as simple drop-ins, chats, academic discussions, or casual knowledge-sharing across departments. The students also pointed out that dept. of Landscape architecture once had a workshop space to build and make models, which could also serve as a great space for casual interdisciplinary interaction. Others point out that it would be nice to exhibit their work for each other and invite guest lecturers of mutual interest for the entire faculty. It is currently a bit hard to keep track of all the relevant lectures across different student organisations and departments in the faculty.
Encouraging interdisciplinarity through small and big measures
The students did embark on a great many topics, there was also a creative meeting ground of the mind. They were aiming at aspects that were not a physical space, but curriculum and activities that is not covered by typical courses and student organisations.
They pointed out something as simple as free licenses to selected digital tools. Looking past just saving a few bucks, the students were also referring to what kind of collaborative and interdisciplinary culture it could or would encourage among different institutes. The students claimed it would lower the threshold for other students across other institutes (not only landscape, but also property and law + urban regional planning) to interact on a deeper professional level, take lessons from landscape architects, and increase a mutual understanding of each other. Interdisciplinarity starts with understanding one another, and property and law students were equally interested in Adobe, Autodesk and GIS that the landscape students were using. Rapid crash courses on technical aspects, Adobe programs, visual styles, TEK17, could go a long way in establishing bonds between students of different background, yet interconnected through the planning field. Another one would be a common student organisation for all three of the related departments, so that one can get an overview of relevant lectures/lecturers, courses, or activities across professions. Or even lectures on contemporary and relevant issues, such as the current housing market, what is on the agenda on sustainability, emerging trends etc. In doing so, the supplementary courses would be more in line with NMBU’s groundbreaker slogan (banebryter). Also, younger student assistants/tutors in touch with current trends, were also very much desired among the students. They remarked that sometimes it is also relating to tutors/assistants around the same age as themselves. Or even the fact that the English proficiency is below par, that some Norwegians refuse to present in English in the international courses excluding the exchange students from partaking in the discussions.
How to represent oneself, industry presence, entrepreneurship and competitive nature
The awareness around self-development was also raised, aside from the main discussion around what the content of a student-lab should be, and a related common meeting ground. The students posed some simple questions, which show an interest in individual development and entrepreneurship, and not least, to be in-touch with their respective industries.
Some of the requests that the students made on this topic, were stuff like how to apply for a job, how to act in an interview, or even how to become a good public debater on and communicate topics surrounding urban and societal affairs. All these characteristics that the students ask of, substantiates not only the need for self-development as a professional, but surprisingly enough, also the notion that an entrepreneurial spirit exists at NMBU.
On behalf of SITRAP, Tin posed the simple question: would you students, be interested in establishing your own firms further down the line and do your own projects and competitions? If yes, what hinders you from doing so?
The crowd’s answer was unanimously yes, yet their reluctance in doing so were very much rooted in what is to be considered as basic challenges. The questions raised were the jurisdiction around new establishments, where to begin to understand the technicalities behind urban competitions, parallel commissions, tenders, regulations, or even how to lead a bigger planning process etc., projects that usually makes up for the revenue stream for designing or planning offices. For the real estate developers, it was more interesting to see how to host these types of commissions. A spark was ignited when it was brought to their attention that 2 former NMBU students had won one of the sites with their master projects. The students said they were up to it, but still felt a bit foreign, as it would be nice to have a contact person with experience on managing an office and engaging in these types of projects. Regarding establishing one’s own firm, is also the need to establish a contact network with the practicing industry. The students put great emphasis on field trips to different practicing firms to see where they work and their thoughts on the industry. They also pointed to all the recruting events at NTNU, where the firms is actively out there with the students earning goodwill through free food, beers and presentations of their activities.
Lessons to distill for SITRAP
The biggest question is what measures can SITRAP take to accommodate the wishes of the students? The workshop was processed and some of the key findings from this workshop were introduced as relevant activities to fund in SITRAP’s SFU application late April in 2019 (Centre for Excellence in Education). From the feedback, the demand for a student lab appears to be highly relevant, that not only covers activities outside typical courses and student organisations, but a lab that also recognises the need of a common meeting place for the students, to physically anchor social and professional activities around it. Another aspect worthy of a mention is the interest in understanding among students on how to make it as a young professional in the planning field, either how to present oneself, or starting up an office etc.