By: Kyle Niblett
More than 60 design and planning firms made up of architects, interior designers, landscape architects and other disciplines flooded the floor of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center this past week for the annual University of Florida Design and Planning Career Fair. Students looking for full-time jobs following graduation as well as those seeking internships felt prepared as they steamrolled through Gate 1 of the venue on their way to cement their future.
“I felt well prepared for it,” interior design graduate student Lafayette Bonner said. “My professors are the best because they challenge us. They push us when we think we’re done and let us know there is always something more we can do better. That is why I felt so prepared to be here today and why my time here was so successful.”
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., companies swooned as ready-to-work candidates visited their booths in record numbers. Following a brief lunch for the hardworking recruiters, job seekers were personally invited back at the recruiter’s invitation for job interviews. School of Architecture Director David Rifkind simply could not wait until the doors opened to meet the dozens of graduates from DCP who returned to hire the next batch of Gator greats.
When asked about the number of alumni in attendance, Rifkind excitedly responded, “We have firms from the West Coast all the way to the Northeast here because we have such an extraordinary alumni network. It says a lot about the college and about how excellent our curriculum is, but it says even more about Gator Nation and the alumni support of our students. Once you’re a Gator, you’re a Gator for life.”
Mitchell Clarke (BDES ’14, MARCH ’16) was one of the many graduates Rifkind referenced. As communications manager for Strang Design, Clarke was looking for interns and full-time employees for architecture design, interior design, and landscape design.
“Our owner, Max Strang (BDES ’94), has always had a special place in his heart for hiring Gators because there is something special about the education that you get at the University of Florida thanks to the professors and the way that they look at design.”
Clarke stated that him and other companies attend the DCP Industry Expo annually because the college provides an all-encompassing, well-rounded education. By incorporating design into every single aspect of the curriculum, students not only get the technical side of design, but also learn about the structural environment.
When it comes to interdisciplinary learning, Todd Bonnett (BLAE ’92) agrees.
“Not all landscape architecture programs are within colleges of architectural design,” the principal at Bonnett Design Group in Orlando said. “I really appreciate the interdisciplinary approach to the program and how landscape architecture students interact with architects, interior designers, and planners, especially through the first couple design classes. That really is what’s most appealing to me from the graduates and people that came out of this program. I don’t think you could do anything better than attending UF and going through the program here.”
Citing incredibly talented students who leave Gainesville as great designers and thinkers, Dan Manley, the acting chair for the Department of Landscape Architecture, paced row-by-row basking in the fact his students were well sought after for their abilities.
“The companies in attendance were terrific,” Manley said. “I saw a lot of familiar faces that continue to make a difference in Florida and help shape our built environment. There is no better place to practice landscape architecture than the state of Florida and no place better to learn about it than right here at the University of Florida. It is wonderful watching the students and the professionals interacting.”
With five dozen-plus companies in attendance, third-year architecture student and internship seeker Christian Bravo quickly recognized that his education at DCP was paying big dividends.
“Just having three years at DCP is substantial,” Bravo said as he caught his breath between on-the-spot job interviews. “I have learned a lot as a student in terms of the process of being creative and creating unique things. I have seen first-hand now how firms appreciate my education, and with so many here, it obviously shows.”
The advice given to Bravo and other students seemed to work brilliantly.
“I told our students, ‘You are here because of who you are, and that is all you need to be,’” Rifkind ended with.