By: Joey Mazzaferro
March 13, 2022
Last month saw another crop of students present their visions and vie for the grand prize of the Witters Competition, which was established in 1993. The competition was endowed by Col. Arthur G. (BSBC ’41) and Beverly A. Witters for an interdisciplinary academic competition to foster better understanding among design, construction, planning and engineering students.
As Col. Witters himself stated after attending the 2007 competition in person, “We started this competition so all disciplines in the college could talk and work with one another.”
Even though both Arthur and Beverly Witters have passed away, the Witters family is still involved in the competition. This year, Anne Witters Langan, the Witters’ daughter, attended the competition while her son, Tucker Ryals, served on the Witters Committee and the jury for the competition.
“I compliment the college for the impressive efforts you have made through the years to bring this concept of my parents to life and give it the attention that has allowed it to grow in its impact on the students and their education,” Witters Langan said.
This year’s competition had a welcome addition with a client participating in the entire process. Patricia Lee, CEO of Tee Foundation Assistance Network, Inc. (T-FAN), joined the Witters Committee this year and provided the project the students would work on.
The Center for Commerce, Education and Culture (C-CEC), aka “East Side Village: Fostering Education, Equity and Economic Development,” explored community needs and envisioned a mixed-use development on the east side of Gainesville. Competition teams were tasked with proposing an innovative mixed-use plan and parcel program that would educate, empower, and engender social equity and economic development for residents and entrepreneurs.
“While it is a university, the University of Florida is the largest, most influential citizen in Alachua County,” Lee said. “With this comes great responsibility to the community. Through its very capable students, one university college is living up to that responsibility in a magnificent way. It is the College of Design, Construction and Planning (DCP).”
Fifty-two students formed nine teams and went to work on developing a plan for this site. Five teams moved on to the finals and in the end, one team was crowned the winner of the 2023 Witters Competition. That winning group was Team 7, better known as Reclaim.
The winning members of Reclaim were Ryan Chisholm (Urban and Regional Planning), Kirsten Haughey (Sustainability and the Built Environment), Haoting Hong (Landscape Architecture), Xiyi Hu (Interior Design), Ashley Huebner (Sustainability and the Built Environment), and Hunter Kaminski (Engineering). These students split the $4,000 grand prize for winning the competition. The other four finalist teams were also awarded prizes as well.
“While we could only award the top five teams, all nine teams did an amazing job,” Lee stated. “What is particularly amazing is that the students were given less than three days to put their projects together. In addition, they also had to keep up with their regular class work while doing the work required of the Witters Competition. These students are truly the elite of all the very capable DCP students.”
For 30 years, the Witters Competition has provided our students an incredible opportunity to showcase their skills while working in a collaborative environment. Our students have worked with each other in addition to students from the Wertheim College of Engineering to create solutions to real world problems, which sounds like what the Witters had in mind when the competition was established.
“After my dad’s retirement, the idea of the Witters competition, I think, was looking to the future and the way UF educates students in the disciplines involved in the design and building of structures,” Witters Langan said. “I think he felt it hopefully would improve the way the various professions involved with building structures would work together for a more complementary and functional result. He was trying to improve the process and results.”
“I again compliment the college for the impressive efforts you have made through the years to bring this concept of my parents to life and give it the attention that has allowed it to grow in its impact on the students and their education” she added.