By Walt Rossiter and Rick Gardner
In 2012, the RCI Foundation initiated its Student Sponsorship program for supporting student attendance at the Annual Convention and Trade Show. The first year, seven students were supported. In 2018, 24 students attended due to the Foundation’s growth and support of RCI members and industry.
Prerequisites for Participation — To qualify for attendance, applicants must be full-time undergraduate students (at least 12 credit hours per semester) enrolled in architecture; architectural, structural, or civil engineering; construction management; or other related areas of study. Up to 25 students are eligible to receive this funding, and students may be selected twice (for different years).
The sponsorship includes RCI convention registration, up to four nights lodging at the convention hotel, a stipend for meals, cost of travel (up to $400), and a one-year RCI student membership. In return for the stipend, recipients are required to:
- Attend a minimum of ten hours of educational presentations and devote three hours to the trade show floor.
- Interact informally with staff, committees, and the Board of Directors during the convention.
- Participate in public affairs/advertising efforts by participating in an article for the RCI NewsFeed or RCI Interface, sharing convention experiences and the knowledge gained.
Participant Experience — Since returning to their studies, students have provided summaries of their convention experiences. Students mentioned a number of benefits gained by their attendance, the most expected being learning and networking. Others include: motivation for continuing their education such as attending graduate school, gaining experience in how to most profit from attending a conference, increased potential for future job offers, general personal development, and insights into the breadth of the building envelope industry.
Participant Impressions — Meeting with the students during the convention is always a rewarding and enjoyable experience. All are generally smiling and full of laughter, usually easy to talk to but at times seemingly intimidated, inquisitive, and confident but with some hints of apprehension as they explore the unknowns of the convention. Most important, all students are quite thankful. Often students describe how they could not have afforded to attend the convention on a student budget. Consistent with such admissions, as they gain experience at the convention, the participants readily mentioned that any student who has the opportunity to attend a future convention should “go for it!” The majority of those who are attending for their first time and will not have graduated after the convention mentioned they would like to attend again next year.
Mentors — In 2017, the Student Sponsorship program was expanded to identify mentors who would support, counsel, and guide the students through the unknown and potentially overwhelming experience of attending convention. The mentors are RCI members who volunteer for the role. The mentor aspect of the Student Sponsorship program has been quite successful. Both students and mentors benefit. The students learn from practicing consultants; the mentors profit from their exposure to the students’ questions and life styles. To illustrate, one of this year’s mentors was Kenrick Hartman of WJE’s New York office, who spoke to his experience:
Program Support — If you or your company is interested in supporting the Student Sponsorship program, please visit the RCI Foundation website at http://www.rcifoundation.org/donate.aspx. Indicate that you would like the donation to be used for the “RCI Convention Student Participation Fund.” Alternatively, contact Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner at email@example.com or 919-859-0742.
The most meaningful experience of the event was the networking we all got to do. Personally, I tried to talk to as many different individuals in as many different fields as I could, fields that I didn’t even know existed before attending the event. Not only did I gain knowledge from their experience, I also started relationships that I can build upon in the future.
Another great learning experience was the opportunity to participate in seminars taught by professionals. The seminars not only provided us with valuable information about the speakers’ respective fields, it also gave us information about what our role could be as engineers. Seeing the type of work they did gave me a perspective of all that I could do in this career whether it be research, design, consulting, etc.
Given the opportunity to talk to future applicants, I would tell them what you all told me, “The conference is what you make of it.” The RCI convention provides you with so much potential, it is your responsibility to unlock it and do something with it. I know I will continue to nurture the relationships I built in Texas and will continue to be a member of the RCI community.
– Andrew Pelletier, Central Connecticut State University
I learned various concepts pertaining to building envelope which I wasn’t [sic] aware of prior to this. Further, I learned how to network efficiently. I learned about various products on the trade show floor. In short, the 4 days were very helpful in my career and surely increased my knowledge in this field.
If you get in, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity because the whole RCI organization is amazing. The students can get [a] great amount of knowledge [from] the educational programs, network with people, know about the upcoming events, talk about your future career interests, and there will surely be people looking to hire you. So yes, JUST GO!
– Rahil Mehta, Virginia Tech
As an architecture student it is easy to become submerged in the principles of theory and design, but this convention and introduction into the RCI was an answer to another side of the industry based upon the realities and reasoning behind why and how we build. I am very grateful to this organization for supporting my education and providing an eye-opening experience into the profession.
– Jennifer Hay, University of Texas at Arlington
Looking back, I view the convention as a major highlight during my time in school because of how fun, friendly and informative everyone I met was. From industry leaders to professors, vendors and speakers, there was an abundance of opportunities to learn about the building envelope and network, with strong possibilities of landing a job one day with these companies.
Although I’ve used both my student opportunities to attend, I plan on staying in contact with RCI and possibly becoming a member once I start my career. Thank you for everything over these past two years. They are memories I will never forget.
– Scott Belcher, Virginia Tech
-Jackson Laing, Appalachian State University
I would like to thank all the RCI members for making me feel so welcome and encouraging me to become a part of the “family”. It was beyond inviting, and I most definitely will keep my options open when it comes to graduating and choosing a job next year.
If I were able to attend the conference again, I would in a heartbeat. Like I previously stated, this was a great opportunity for networking and I am going to encourage more students to attend next year. Just knowing how interested all the members were in us students being a part of the conference makes you feel so welcome and simply excited just to be a part of such a great industry.
– Sarah Gambino, Alfred State College
This kind of experiential learning is priceless, and I hope to share the knowledge I gained as widely as possible. I can’t thank you enough for the support and generosity of the RCI Foundation.
– Trey King, Virginia Tech
While attending the event I did not only gain information about different fields, but I learned how to socialize with people that I never met. Not only was I surprised to see how many people approached me rather than me approaching them; I was also surprised to see how willing they were to share experiences with me. For those of you who are going to be applying for this opportunity, I would highly recommend it. The amount of experience and networking will open up the doors of opportunities that you may never think of.
– Sanjiv Patel, Central Connecticut State University
Over a few days I was exposed to a wide network of information including people, products/demonstrations, and educational events. Without the contributions made, many next-generation members of RCI would not have had the exposure needed for future growth in our industry. I hope to get the chance to meet many of you again at future RCI events.
– Navindra Budhwa, Ryerson University
Getting the chance to learn about current topics in the architectural profession from some of the top industry professionals was not only inspiring, but highly educational and informative about the direction that I plan to take in my career. Because of my experience at the 2018 RCI convention, I am seriously considering becoming a building envelope specialist in the future and I plan on maintaining involvement with the RCI Foundation throughout my career.
On a student budget, the opportunity that the RCI Foundation offers would not be possible. I am endlessly thankful for the opportunity I was given to learn and grow as a young professional.
– Stephenie Williams, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute