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Philanthropic partnership benefits students and companies

Ali Sandhu ’16, ’18 gives Bryant Phares II ’19 advice on a class project.It was between two excellent architecture programs—Yale and Ohio State—for Ali Sandhu. She needed something to tip the scales.

Receiving an associateship position was a major factor in Sandhu’s decision to further her education at Ohio State. The tuition coverage and stipend it provides will enable her to graduate with a master’s in architecture debt-free, plus gain teaching experience.

“I was admitted to the Yale University School of Architecture, where I received considerable financial aid, but not the promise of a teaching position,” she explained. “The associateship from Meyers + Associates was a real factor in my choosing the Knowlton School.”

Two-time Ohio State architecture alumnus Christopher Meyers ’94, ’96, principal architect and founder of Meyers + Associates Architecture, knows firsthand how difficult it is to pay for an architecture master’s degree out-of-pocket. “When I was a student, coming up with the money to study architecture was tough. Plus, the architecture program is so demanding that it’s very difficult to work when you’re in school.”

That understanding, coupled with his desire to stay connected to the Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture, is why Meyers is both a supporter and a champion of the school’s Office Associateship Program.

An innovative partnership between the Knowlton School and a variety of companies in the design and construction industries, the program helps attract and retain top graduate students in architecture and landscape architecture by providing funding for their education expenses. Students are matched to one of 35 sponsoring companies, but instead of working for their sponsor, they dedicate 10 or 20 hours a week to a research or teaching assistant position at the Knowlton School.

The opportunity to have a direct impact on an individual student is what Meyers finds most rewarding.

“The unique thing about this is it allows you to specifically work closely with that individual and become a participant in their education and career development,” he explained. “It really gives you a personal connection to giving at Ohio State.”

Students meet their sponsors at a reception held at the beginning of the academic year and again at a dinner in the spring where each student presents what they have worked on throughout the year. Many sponsors become even more involved.

“We take it upon ourselves to really interact with the students. For instance, if they’re having a final review on a project, we’ll come watch. We invite them to different events at the office or we’ll meet up and go tour buildings we’re working on,” Meyers explained. “It’s not just a financial transaction, it’s an opportunity for mentoring.”

As a result, the experience often becomes an extended job interview. Four previous office associates have ended up working at Meyers’ firm after graduation.

The Office Associateship Program also benefits the Knowlton School as a whole, explained Professor and Architecture Section Head Robert Livesey. “Because of this support, we can afford to have more graduate assistants and teaching assistants, and that helps us with our student-to-faculty ratio in our large lecture courses,” he said. “The program is hugely important to us in terms of maintaining the idea of education by discourse.”

This story was originally published in Forward, the College of Engineering's giving impact report. Read more giving stories and the full report online.