By Marc R. Masferrer, University Communications and Marketing
Construction of the new student center and residence hall on the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus – and a classmate’s lending hand – led to a summer internship for USF architecture graduate student Javier Ugalde Alvarez with one of the project’s architects.
John J. Holz, a partner in Plunkett Raysich Architects’ (PRA) Sarasota office, the associate architects on the student center and residence hall project, approached Sarasota-Manatee campus Vice Chancellor Brett Kemker with the possibility of creating the PRA Prize, an annual scholarship/internship program for USF students. The proposal, based on a similar program in PRA’s Milwaukee office, was refined during further discussions with College of the Arts Dean Chris Garvin and Robert MacLeod, director of the School of Architecture and Community Design, as well as with the USF Foundation.
“We want to leverage this opportunity to grow our relationship with USF and their students and teach them as much as we can about architecture,” Holz said. “The USF student center and residence hall is a project an intern can work on and fully experience the whole process, from the design to construction to completion and to actually experiencing it.”
After a process that included applicants writing essays about how architecture can contribute to more equitable environments, another student, Ulises Padron, was selected to receive the inaugural $5,000 scholarship. But because he already had a summer position lined up, he recommended Ugalde Alvarez for the internship with PRA, who then interviewed and hired him.
“He's one of my great friends and classmates,” Ugalde Alvarez said. “We're always competing. Who is the better designer, who finishes first? But it's always a friendly competition.”
A team led by CORE Construction and Mackey Mitchell Architects is designing and building the $42 million student center and residence hall. As the associate architect on the project, PRA oversees the construction administration, as well as the design and installation of furniture, fixtures and equipment that will go into the building.
Ugalde Alvarez started his internship with PRA in early May and quickly began working on the Sarasota-Manatee project, including sitting in on construction management meetings and touring the construction site. As one of his early contributions, he is working with an interior designer on what type of carpeting will go into the building.
PRA has committed to the scholarship/internship prize for five years.
“This student center and housing facility is going to transform our campus,” Kemker said. “I’m thrilled that our students are going to be part of that process and that PRA is investing in our students beyond this project by providing scholarship and internship opportunities for years to come.”
Ugalde Alvarez also is working on other projects for PRA, including at the Avantair Club for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Nativity Catholic Church in Orlando and Bayshore High School in Bradenton. One unique qualification that Ugalde Alvarez has brought to the student center and residence hall project is his status as a current USF student, which allows him to envision how students might use and respond to the building.
“I have this knowledge of how buildings work, but I also know what a student actually does in a day. It’s really interesting to merge the two together,” Ugalde Alvarez said.
This is the first internship for Ugalde Alvarez, who came to USF intending to take classes he needed before applying for medical school but instead decided to pursue an earlier academic interest in architecture. He has one more year before he completes his graduate degree in architecture.
Ugalde Alvarez said it has been gratifying how PRA has welcomed him. He commutes to PRA’s office in Sarasota every day from his home in the Tampa area and takes classes at USF on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“It has been an exciting experience,” he said. “I am applying lessons I have learned from the great professors at USF, and seeing first-hand what I have learned can shape the new student center and other projects I am working on.
“Honestly, it's a lot of work, but it doesn't feel like a lot of work," Ugalde Alvarez said.
Holz said PRA is eager to build on an already fruitful relationship with USF.
“It’s important to give back to the community and to have a strong relationship with the groups that work with us,” Holz said. “We love how USF, as a research college, has put itself on the map and has climbed academically.”
Ugalde Alvarez predicted that Sarasota-Manatee students will be pleased with the student center and housing complex when it opens for the start of the fall 2024 semester. All of the building’s features, from the two-story atrium that will greet residents and visitors to the new book store, will appeal to students, Ugalde Alvarez said.
“I think it's an addition that is needed and will add to the richness of the campus,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it comes to life.”