An Interview with Jonathan Bahe, University of Minnesota Architecture Student

by Cathy Sivak
An Interview with Jonathan Bahe, University of Minnesota Architecture Student

January 31, 2006

Iowa native Jonathan Bahe began to hone his can-do attitude through scouting, where he earned the highest honor possible, the Eagle Scout designation. He has since honed his drive with work toward his bachelor's degree in architecture, involvement in student and professional organizations, and summer jobs in the construction and architecture field. "The knowledge you get from physically putting a building together is priceless," he tells

Jonathan expects to complete his bachelor's of science degree in architecture at the University of Minnesota's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture with a minor in business management in May of 2006. He plans to pursue a master's degree in architecture following his undergraduate work.

He describes his undergraduate architecture studies as "very intense," but notes the hard work helps students develop a passion for the field. "As an architecture student, you learn how to take a holistic approach to a problem, whether it is a design problem or not," he says.

Currently the director of the Midwest chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (, Jonathan was recently elected the national AIAS president for 2006-2007. He has served actively at AIAS at a school chapter, state, regional and national level, and as a student representative to its professional counterpart, the American Institute of Architecture. "Not only is AIAS great for developing leadership, networking, and other skills necessary to become a successful architect, but there are many tangible benefits as well," he says.

Education Information & Advice

How did you initially decide to study architecture?

I have been interested in becoming an architect since middle school. I have always enjoyed working with buildings, and was fascinated watching my father, who was a draftsman for many years, draw different projects.

How did you choose the University of Minnesota architecture program?

Coming from a very small town in Iowa, I fell in love with Minneapolis and the big city. I was also drawn to the four-year Bachelor of Science program as compared to the five-year programs offered elsewhere.

What were/are your three favorite classes and why?

I have enjoyed my Structures and Building Systems classes, as they provide the technical end of architecture. And while studio is very time consuming and at times frustrating, the friendships and passion for design which have emerged are well worth the frustrations.

You are active in your school, state and national chapters of American Institute of Architects (AIA) and American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). What led to your interest in the organization? How is your participation enhancing your education and future career plans?

A very important part of architecture and architectural education is networking. Joining an organization like the AIAS allows for this to happen. Not only can you be connected with over 6,500 architecture students all across the country, but it also allows for opportunities for you to get outside of your own architecture program and see what is going on elsewhere. AIAS hosts various events locally, regionally, and nationally with speakers, seminars, and workshops which can compliment your education. My involvement with the AIA, which grew out of my involvement with AIAS, has allowed me to develop my networking and leadership skills. Not only has my involvement in AIAS solidified my career goal of becoming an architect, but next year I will be serving as AIAS National President, which will also be a great personal growth opportunity.

What should students expect from AIAS membership?

Students can expect a lot out of their AIAS membership. Not only is AIAS great for developing leadership, networking, and other skills necessary to become a successful architect, but there are many tangible benefits as well. As an AIAS member, you get discounts on magazine subscriptions, books, travel and reduced registration for conferences and events. You also receive a subscription to CRIT, the journal of the American Institute of Architecture Students, which is the only source for published student work in the field.

What do you like and dislike about your architecture education thus far?

Getting an undergraduate education in architecture is great, regardless of if you end up going into "traditional" architectural practice. As an architecture student, you learn how to take a holistic approach to a problem, whether it is a design problem or not. Also, as an undergraduate architecture student, you learn about many different topics which can be applied in many different career paths. I have enjoyed this part of my undergraduate education immensely. Architectural education is also unlike the way many other disciplines learn because of design studios. It is in design studio where you learn about collaboration, time management, and make great lifelong friends.

What factors should prospective students consider when choosing an architecture school? Are there different considerations for those who know that they want to specialize in a certain area of the field?

When choosing an architecture school for an undergraduate education, I believe one of the most important things is location. When picking a school for undergraduate education, students typically don't have the background in architecture to pick a program based on a specialization. However, there are definitely schools which are more design-oriented, technology-oriented, etc., which is an important consideration to take.

How can prospective architecture students assess their skill and aptitude? What can students applying to architecture schools/programs do to increase their chances of being accepted?

Oftentimes students think they need to take lots of math to be an architect. You have to have some math skills, however, take as much drawing and art in high school as you can. The ability to express your ideas quickly on paper is very important.

Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about architecture in order to be successful as a student of the field? As a professional?

If you are going to be a successful architecture student, or professional, you must be extremely passionate about what you are doing. While it does get frustrating at times, that underlying passion for architecture and improving the lives of others is very important. As a student, you will put in a lot of time in studio and other classes. It is a very intense undergraduate education, but with it comes high rewards. No one who is working in architecture is in it for the money. Architects don't make a lot of money. They are in it for the passion.

You & Your Career

Tell us about your career plans in the field of architecture. What area do you plan to specialize in? What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

After serving as AIAS National President for 2006-2007, I will continue my education at a graduate school. Graduate school is a necessary step for me as I continue on the path to become a licensed architect. After graduate school, I plan to become a licensed architect, and become partner of an existing firm, or open my own firm.

Tell us about your experiences with internships and other hands-on training.

I have had some great opportunities to learn outside of the classroom throughout my education. I worked for a summer for a construction contractor, which was a great experience. The knowledge you get from physically putting a building together is priceless.

I have also worked for two years at Strawberry Point, Iowa-based Gardner Architecture, PLC, which is a very small firm located in rural northeast Iowa. At Gardner Architecture, I learned many things ranging from site analysis, to construction drawings, to budgeting, to how to deal with people. I had the opportunity to work on many different types and sizes of projects which has been a great addition to my education.

How available are internships in the field? Any tips for seeking out (and landing) internships?

There are many internships available to students. Most schools have internship fairs and career services staff to help you locate these internships. However, getting an internship for a summer outside of architecture, whether it is sales, marketing, construction, etc., will be very valuable in your education. Joining an organization such as AIAS allows you to meet professionals at various events, learn about different firms, and ultimately will help you get an internship.

Editor's note: To follow up with Jonathan Bahe personally about his experience as an architecture student and with the AIAS, click here.

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