Valerie Tsao: Katsouleas NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program
Building Duke: The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present (ARTHIST293)
Durham, North Carolina
Summary: Building Duke is a research seminar and laboratory on the architectural history of Duke Campus based on original archival materials (photos, blueprints, contracts, letters, and financial records) preserved in the University Archive. The course explores the variety of interpretative lenses in the field of architecture history, including (but not limited to) issues of style, patronage, labor, gender, and race. It analyzes notions of cultural identity as construed by Duke founders and administrators and as imprinted on Duke Campus by its architects and landscape designers. The project involves relational database of textual and visual archival material on the architectural history of Duke campus; an interactive digital 3D model of campus developments since the 1920s; a series of multimedia thematic narratives on history of the campus; and a series of augmented reality tours. Specifically, my role is focused on the 3D modelling and conceptualization of Duke campus throughout its growth in history. This involves using SketchUp, AutoCAD, Unity and more to map various buildings/facilities on campus to a virtual platform. At the end of the semester, we hope to consolidate all components of our modelling to create an interactive user interface that may be accessed by anyone via the team website.
Relation to GC Focus: Especially to a place that has since become my home away from home, Duke has a rich history to tell, even more so within the realm of its architecture. Since this experience involves directly studying the effects of how infrastructure has established itself and the cycles of evolution that pass through a facilities’ lifetime, it is extremely relevant to my GCS focus.
Timeline: August 2019 – May 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Augustus Wendell
Total Hours: 4-5 hours/week
Relation to GC Focus: In this course, I was able to grasp a deeper understanding of Duke’s architectural background and history. By building 3D models and documenting information on different buildings throughout the campuses, I came to learn more about the origins of Duke as a university. By analyzing structures of the past, I can appreciate the design decisions of architects and apply their perspectives to something that would fit the realms of modern urban infrastructure.
Timeline: August 2019 – January 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Sara Galletti
Total Hours: 80 hours
Chinese Im/migration (AMES309)
Durham, North Carolina
Summary: This course conducts a comparative examination of contemporary China’s “floating population” of migrant labor, and of Chinese immigration abroad (particularly to the US). It focuses on cultural representation of these phenomena (particularly literary, cinematic, and artistic works), but sociological, anthropological, economic, and political perspectives are also considered. The reasons and sources for the wealth/education disparity between differing populations of China are studied in great detail. Various readings, films, and documentaries are utilized to supplement and support the course content. Topics include cultural alienation, marginalization, and assimilation; education and health care; labor and commodification; gender and ethnicity; narratives of modernization and development; together with the ethical, social, and political implications of migration.
Relation to GC Focus: While there are many factors at work, the Chinese diaspora can be observed through the lens of evolving urban infrastructure. In most cases, Chinese migrant workers come from underdeveloped areas of the countryside, lacking technological advancements and innovation. Whether their move is to more dense hotspots in China or to the United States, their shift in location places them in a new social climate and forces them to cope with a lifestyle they are unfamiliar with. Through the framework of rapidly urbanizing China, a national appreciation, and even fixation, for the potential that education can instill upon youth has been deeply ingrained within households, communities, and societal institutions alike. Younger migrant workers are pushed to pursue this ideal level of academic prestige. Through this course, I was able to identify the stark differences that accumulate in one’s life due to the level of expanding infrastructure either present or absent in their everyday routine. It was interesting to note the intimate connections between the technical aspects of infrastructure and how we live. By bridging the practical applications of knowledge I receive from engineering courses and applying it to a social context, my perspective is refined and sharpened to fit the needs of the people who are in need of these services.
Timeline: January 2020-May 2020
Supervisor: Dr. Carlos Rojas
Total Hours: 80 hours
Creativity Lab (Writing 101)
Durham, North Carolina
Summary: Writing 101 is a required course for all students during their freshmen year of Duke University. However, students are given the freedom to choose their preferred Writing 101 topic and course during the registration window. For me, Creativity Lab was a place to utilize writing, art, improve, music, video, graphic design and movement to explore both the requirements of and the possibilities for academic research papers in any field of inquiry. The course began with a series of provocative readings on topics such as race, gender, class, and sexuality, in a variety of writing genres (academic and personal essays, fiction, poetry, lyrics, blogs, etc). As a class, we responded to these readings in a variety of expressive genres: memoir, dialogue, short fiction, lyric or poetry, as well as dance, music, fine art, photography, web or graphic design. Since this course allowed me to decide on something I wanted to study more in depth, my final project involved capturing the connections between urban infrastructure and nature as a whole.
Relation to GC Focus: With the direction of Professor Mullenneaux, I was able to study the relationship between human interaction, nature, and urban infrastructure collectively in a single project. Doing this brought me closer to thinking about what I wanted to study as an engineer and student at Duke. Between observational studies, trips to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, and reading research conducted by professionals in the field, I found that there is an undeniable intersection between these factors.